A drug which halts the spread of ovarian cancer is now available to NHS patients in what charities hailed as a 'major breakthrough' for thousands of women.
Drug rationing chiefs gave the green light for the daily pill - niraparib - to be prescribed to women with incurable ovarian cancer.
The treatment freezes tumours for months at a time, halting relapse and giving women a crucial break from relentless rounds of grueling chemotherapy.
A drug which halts the spread of ovarian cancer will now be available to NHS patients
Giving ovarian cancer pause
Ovarian cancer is one of the most common and deadly cancers in women, affecting about 7,400 people in the UK every year, killing 4,100.
Survival rates are low because symptoms - such as bloating and tummy pain - can be attributed to other illnesses, meaning three-quarters of women are diagnosed once it has spread.
An estimated 85 per cent of patients experience recurrence after their first treatment, meaning they often face repeated bouts of chemotherapy to keep the disease under control.
The new drug gives patients valuable months of normality before the disease returns and the next chemotherapy round begins.
It is not yet known whether it will extend the lives of patients but it is thought it will benefit around 850 patients a year.
Charities welcomed the decision, branding it a 'game changer' for women with the disease.
Rebecca Rennison, from, Target Ovarian Cancer, said: 'Today's announcement is a game changer in ovarian cancer.
'While we have seen some new treatments in recent years, these have been for highly restricted groups.
'We know that with the right investment in new treatments, more women can and will survive this disease. Today is a critical first step in making that a reality.'
Drug rationing chiefs green lit the pill niraparib to be prescribed to women with ovarian cancer
How it works
Niraparib is one of a group of new cancer drugs called PARP inhibitors, developed by researchers in Sheffield, Cambridge and London over the last 20 years.
These exploit a weakness in cancer cells' defence, zeroing in on their 'Achilles heel' to kill a tumour without harming healthy cells.
Scientists had previously thought cancers with the BRCA gene mutation were the only ones with the weakness.
But research has found it exists in all tumours, although the weakness has been found to be bigger in BRCA mutated cancers.
Trials found women with an inherited BRCA gene mutation saw the time to relapse increase from 5.5 months to 21 months compared with