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New gastrointestinal drug available on NHS

The only effective treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumours is to be made available on the NHS.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence today announced it has approved the use of breakthrough drug Glivec for the life-threatening cancer of the GI tract.

About 900 people are diagnosed with GIST every year in the UK and today's positive recommendation means around 250 patients whose tumours have spread to other parts of their bodies or are unsuitable for surgery can be treated with the drug on the NHS.

"It is excellent news that NICE is recommending the use of Glivec as first-line treatment for patients with advanced GIST," said Professor Ian Judson, consultant medical oncologist at Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

"We know that Glivec is highly effective in controlling tumour growth and improving quality of life in this group of patients for whom there was hitherto no effective therapy. This decision should mean that all patients who need the drug will receive it and that it will be used appropriately."

Studies show treatment with Glivec, which has been available on the NHS in Scotland since August 2002, controls the disease in 85 per cent of patients.

After clinical guidance is issued to the NHS in October, it will be mandatory for all trusts and policyholders across England and Wales to provide Glivec for all suitable GIST patients.

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