One of Northern Ireland’s top cancer doctors has hailed the launch of a new drug proven to prolong the lives of women suffering advanced breast cancer as a “big step forward” for treatment — but he’s not yet able to prescribe it on the NHS.
Dr Seamus McAleer has been involved in trials of a new drug called Lapatinib at Belfast City Hospital which has offered women suffering a type of advanced breast cancer hope by slowing the disease.
Around 1,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Northern Ireland every year, with a quarter suffering the aggressive, fast-growing ErbB2-positive kind of the disease.
For many women with this form of the disease who initially respond to treatment with Herceptin and chemotherapy, the cancer will start to grow again within a year of starting treatment.
Lapatinib is specifically targeted at patients facing this situation, a stage at which there are very few treatment options available.
Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline said that Lapatinib, taken along with the standard chemo drug capecitabine, “has shown to delay the time its takes for cancer to worsen”.