A terminally-ill woman with a rare form of glandular cancer called multiple endocrine neoplasia has won her fight to have treatment with Pfizer’s Sutent on the National Health Service.

Initially, West Kent NHS had turned down funding for Sutent (sunitinib) on the basis that there was not enough evidence to show that it had any survival benefits in this type of cancer, leaving thirty-seven year old Nikki Phelps and her husband to foot the £3,000-a-month bill for the drug.

However, the decision was reversed by an appeals board following a review of the case and, according to various media reports, NHS West Kent has also agreed to pay back more than £9,000 that has already been spent by the patient on therapy.

While Sutent has not been reviewed for multiple endocrine neoplasia by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the cost watchdog has cleared its use on the NHS for kidney cancer and stomach tumours, under new guidelines that relax the rules on appraising so-called end of life drugs that have the potential to extend survival.

Sutent offers a double-pronged attack against cancer by preventing cell multiplication as well as cutting off blood supply to the tumour, and clinical trials have demonstrated its ability to more than double progression-free survival in kidney cancer patients compared to standard therapy with interferon-alfa.