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'Magic bullet' liver cancer treatment may SEEWALEs trial.

Byline: Graham Henry Senedd Correspondent graham.henry@walesonline.co.uk

AREVOLUTIONARY treatment which could extend the lives of those suffering liver cancer could become available on the Welsh NHS for the first time after the Health Minister said he was considering following England in trialling the treatment.

In an answer to a written question, Mark Drakeford confirmed he was considering whether Selective Internal Radiotherapy Treatment (SIRT), which is argued to be a more effective form of radiotherapy in liver cancer patients, could be available for some Welsh patients under plans to follow a Commissioning Through Evaluation (CTE) programme for the treatment being pioneered in England.

The SIRT treatment, the first to be made available through CTE, uses radioactive beads to treat cancerous tumours in the liver and has been dubbed "the magic bullet" as it only targets liver tumours.

It is not routinely available on the NHS in either England or Wales because the current evidence base has not demonstrated sufficient clinical and cost-effectiveness for its general use. Around 220 patients a year are expected to be treated with SIRT as part of the CTE approach, and government has invited expressions of interest from hospitals. But it could become available in a small number of Welsh centres through CTE for patients where more routine treatments - such as surgery or chemotherapy - have been unsuccessful, and is used to gather more evidence on its efficacy as a treatment.

It follows growing clamour for the treatment to be made available in Wales after examples of patients who were forced to pay thousands of pounds to access treatment.

A terminally-ill patient from Cardiff, Paul Cowan, was forced to pay PS18,000 for the life-extending treatment after being diagnosed in June last year.

He told the Western Mail the treatment wouldn't save his life, but said doctors estimated it may lengthen it by as long as 19 months.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar, who lodged the written question which led to Mr Drakeford's confirmation, said: "I am pleased that the Minister is taking active steps towards the availability of SIRT. This is an extremely important treatment that must be prioritised."

But he added: "It remains a matter of great regret that the minister refuses to listen to Welsh Conservative calls for a cancer treatments fund in Wales - improving accessibility and ending the postcode lottery on cancer drugs.

"Costing just PS5m, this fund could increase access to cancer drugs, boost access to other treatments - like [another cancer treatment] Cyberknife - and assist in the expansion of mobile cancer treatment centres."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "The minister has asked offi-cials to examine the viability of joining the Commissioning through Evaluation programme in order for certain patients in Wales to benefit from SIRT. That work is in the early stages."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 15, 2014
Words:464
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