CALLS for more women to be given the controversial breast cancer drug Herceptin have been backed by further evidence of its effectiveness.
A new study showed that the drug reduces the risk of early stage aggressive breast cancer returning after treatment by up to 51%.
While licensed for use in advanced cancer, Herceptin is not currently approved for early stages of the disease in the UK.
However doctors are still free to prescribe the drug to patients they believe will benefit from the treatment.
Legal actions have followed the refusal of some health authorities to allow patients the drug, which costs the NHS around £21,000 for one course of treatment lasting a year.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has told NHS trusts not to deny patients Herceptin on grounds of cost against the judgment of doctors.
Herceptin is reserved for patients with a gene that makes too much of the protein Her2.
About 20% to 30% of breast cancers fall into this category.
The new research results, announced in Texas, followed a trial involving more than 3,000 patients.