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Herceptin approved for early treatment of breast cancer

24th May 2006

The drug Herceptin can now be used in the early treatment of breast cancer in Europe, following a ruling by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Patients with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer can now receive a treatment of Herceptin, following the drug being granted a licence to treat breast cancer at an advanced stage.

The licence was granted after an independent survey found that a combined treatment of Herceptin and chemotherapy reduced the risk of terminal breast cancer by 46 per cent compared to chemotherapy alone.

William Burns, chief executive officer of pharmaceutical firm Roche, the manufacturer of Herceptin, praised the EMA's rapid decision-making as indicative of the potential of the drug in the early treatment of cancer.

"Herceptin has clearly demonstrated that it provides the best chance of long-term survival when used as early as possible in the course of the disease, and this decision is great news for patients and the medical community," he said.

The prescription of Herceptin has been controversial in the UK, with some NHS trusts refusing to issue it to women suffering from breast cancer because of its high cost.

One in ten women will be affected by breast cancer at some point in their lives, with a global death rate of about 40 per cent.