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Ovarian cancer pill dubbed ‘biggest breakthrough in 30 years’ offers hope to sufferers

An ovarian cancer pill has offered hope to thousands of women after it was given the green light.

Drugs watchdog Nice gave the NHS the go-ahead to offer sufferers a daily pill that can keep tumours under control for years.

An estimated 3,000 women a year in England with advanced ovarian cancer are likely to receive Niraparib.

The drug prevent tumours regrowing after chemotherapy and was previously only available to women whose disease had come back.

Preliminary trial results show Niraparib can keep the disease at bay for an average of six months longer than placebo treatments.

Some women who take the drug are still in remission more than three years later which means they can lead a life as ‘normal’ as possible.

Annwen Jones, from charity Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Today’s announcement is a major milestone in the fight against ovarian cancer, bringing hope during a pandemic where we have serious concerns about how many women are being diagnosed late

“It’s the first time thousands of women will benefit from this innovative drug from the very beginning of treatment.

“We haven’t had such a breakthrough drug available to so many since the introduction of chemotherapy drug paclitaxel – Taxol – in the 1990s.”

Lyndsey Hadden, 64, from Enfield, has been taking niraparib since November 2019 and has credited it for giving her a ‘new lease of life’.

She said: “I was diagnosed four years ago and started taking niraparib after the ovarian cancer spread to my brain.

“After two brain surgeries and further radiotherapy, niraparib has given me another lease of life.

“It’s much less harsh than some other treatments and I’m doing really well. It meant I could get back to my life including doing yoga, walking and swimming when lockdown permits.”

Around 7,500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK each year.

An estimated 4,100 women a year die from the disease which is known as the “silent killer” because its symptoms are often mistaken for other less serious conditions.

This means two thirds of women are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread and may be incurable.

Prof Jonathan Ledermann, from University College London, said: “Today’s decision marks a turning point in advanced ovarian cancer treatment, allowing clinicians to use a key therapy at an earlier phase of treatment and in many more women than ever before.

“This could significantly increase the likelihood that we can delay a woman’s cancer from progressing – for months, perhaps even years longer than is currently possible.

“Maintenance therapy has already changed how we treat ovarian cancer and the decision to recommend Niraparib is yet another important step forward on this journey.”

Victoria Clare, from charity Ovacome, added that the news will “bring deep relief to a great many women with advanced ovarian cancer”.

The decision made by Nice in England will also be the same in Wales and Northern Ireland.

A decision for women in Scotland will be made later this year.