Cornwall cancer patients welcome government's drug cash

Cancer patients and campaigners in Cornwall have welcomed a new national fund for life-saving treatments.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has promised that £50m will be available "within weeks" ahead of the Cancer Drugs Fund planned for next year.

It means cancer patients can access new drugs to help extend their lives by weeks or months or improve their quality of life.

Rose Woodward from Kidney Cancer Support said she was delighted.

"The worst thing in the world is being told you've got cancer and there is a drug that can help you, but you're not going to be allowed to have it," she told BBC News.

"I can't imagine what these patients went through and the desperate sadness families are left with when they died.

"If we can stop families and patients going through these horrors then Mr Lansley will have done a good thing."

Susan Dunn, 65, from St Austell, began to draw on her life savings last August to pay for Cetuximab.

Delay 'scandal'

She has spent about £23,000 on the drug to treat her liver cancer after Cornwall Primary Care Trust twice refused to fund it.

The NHS has now agreed to pay for Mrs Dunn's drug, but the money she has already paid out will not be refunded.

Cancer patient John Quance from Roche, who is battling kidney cancer, has remortgaged his home and cashed in his pension to pay for the drug Sutent.

The 60-year-old's request for funding was rejected three times before the NHS agreed to pay.

Mr Lansley said he was determined to make good a promise he made to help patients in England access drugs that were readily available in Europe.

"Patients should have access to innovative cancer drugs that can extend or improve their quality of life and which their doctors have recommended, which is why I'm determined to take action now," he said.

"It's a scandal that we are strong in cancer research and participation in clinical trials in the UK, yet NHS patients aren't always seeing the benefits from the research swiftly enough," he said.

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