Important research into a life extending cancer drug could deliver its first results within the next two years.

The study into Alimta, a chemotherapy drug for sufferers of the fatal disease mesothelioma, will assess up to 100 patients in the North East.

The work, funded by the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, aims to find out which patients will benefit most from the drug, which is said to extend some sufferers lives by three months.

It is hoped the study will allow physicians to prescribe the drug more accurately, saving the National Health Service money and also improving the quality of life for those with the devastating lung cancer.

Mesothelioma drug was approved and then withdrawn from use

Alimta, created by drug manufacturer Eli Lilly, was cleared for use in the North East in December by the Northern Cancer Network, but it has since been withdrawn from use in the NHS by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

It is hoped the research will help make the drug more affordable so it will be registered by NICE in the future and will continue to be made available for free in the region.

Albi Runi Ryan Abbul Razak, specialist registrar at Newcastle General’s medical oncology department is carrying out the study.

He said it is a chance to show how much it can help dying mesothelioma patients.

He said: “We are very excited about this research project. It is a locally funded project and we will be able to see the results of the work in the local community.

“We are optimising what we consider to be the standard treatment globally and we hope we will be able to improve the quality of life for mesothelioma patients even further.”

The research team will track the progress of the drug in patients in the North East. It will study genetic characteristics of the patient and the tumour’s characteristics to find out who will benefit most from the treatment.

Christine Knighton, of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund said: “This research is going to help victims to have a better quality of life. The findings will be able to pin point if Alimta is the correct drug for a patient so they do not have to go through unnecessary suffering.”

Ian McFall, head of the asbestos team at Thompsons Solicitors, based in Newcastle, has fought for Alimta to be used in the North East.

He added: “This is a huge step forward for mesothelioma victims, many of which have developed the disease following years of hard work on the Tyne”.

“This research will ensure victims are given the best possible treatment.”

To read an earlier story we published about Alimta visit "Thompsons Solicitors call for Alimta to be available for mesothelioma victims".