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Posted on: 12/19/2004


Source: layContent&sourceNode=137013&home=yes&contentPK=11519242

Health chiefs have told a terminally ill father-of-four from Exeter that he can finally have the £10,000 cancer treatment that could prolong his life.

Doctors recently told brave Peter Herbert, 41, from St Thomas, that officials would not sanction the use of a revolutionary chemotherapy drug which could give him vital extra months with his young family. The case was highlighted by the Express & Echo and an appeal was launched by Mr Herbert's family and doctors. And after studying new evidence, the Exeter Primary Care Trust yesterday agreed to fund the use of a pioneering drug called Temozolomide. It means Mr Herbert, who has a brain tumour, can start his treatment on Christmas Eve.

His emotional wife Gina, 33, broke down when she heard the news. She said: "This is the best Christmas present ever. "We are just so overwhelmed, we just can't believe it. We don't want anything else for Christmas.

"Any extra time with the family is valuable time. I just know that we will have a good Christmas now.

"I just want to thank the Echo for helping us. We couldn't have done this without it."

Mr Herbert was given a year to live by doctors after being diagnosed with the tumour in October. More than 90 per cent of it was later removed. Doctors at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Wonford, told him the prognosis was not good, but said the drug Temozolomide could prolong his life. Mr Herbert was to have started taking the drug alongside a course of radiotherapy, which started at the end of last month. But halfway through the radiotherapy, he was told the drug would not be made available to him after all. Officials at the PCT, which pays for healthcare, said they could not approve it being used because it was still at an experimental stage. But after looking at the results from a new international trial officials relented and decided it could go ahead.

If Mr Herbert responds to the treatment he could be celebrating next Christmas with children Amy, 14, Charlie-Jane, eight, Aaron, 12, and Jack, five.

Mrs Herbert said: "We had been on tenterhooks all day before Peter got the call from his doctor.

"He did not show any emotion, but got off the phone and said I've got it. That was it - I just broke down." She said Mr Herbert's mother Nan Costello-Vance broke down on the phone when her son told her the news.

And his father, Christopher Bamsey - who was only reunited with Mr Herbert five years ago - was also ecstatic for his son.

Exeter PCT's Dr Patricia Riordan, who sat on the panel that decided the treatment should go ahead, said: "After reviewing the up-to-date international evidence on the clinical effectiveness of Temozolomide, we are pleased to be able to fund this treatment.

"The evidence indicates that it can improve the life expectancy for some patients with brain tumours of this kind."

The trust examined evidence of a trial involving 600 patients with gioblastoma multiforme, the same type of brain tumour as Mr Herbert. It found that patients treated with radiotherapy alone survived on average for 12 months. Those treated with radiotherapy plus Temozolomide survived on average for 15 months. After two years, 26 per cent of patients who received the dual treatment were alive, compared to eight per cent who received just radiotherapy. UK guidelines issued in 2001 state the drug should only be used once the tumour has returned.

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