30 May 2013

Health groups clash over cancer trial

10:58 am on 30 May 2013

A ministerial health ethics committee is being urged not to tamper with New Zealand involvement in a key cancer trial.

New Zealand women with early aggressive breast cancer are part of an international trial comparing the effectiveness of nine weeks' of the drug Herceptin, with the standard 12-month treatment.

The Finnish-led trial known as SOLD has been under way since 2008 to determine the best way to treat women on the drug.

Intense debate surrounded Pharmac's decision five years ago to fund nine weeks of Herceptin for women with early aggressive breast cancer, rather than the standard 12 months.

In 2008, the incoming National-led Government fulfilled a promise to fund it for 12 months.

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition has told the Northern B Ethics Committee that SOLD is unethical because other trials back longer treatment.

But the Auckland Women's Health Council say it is vital to answer key questions and should continue.