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But it could soon benefit even more sufferers. A global study of 500 patients with cancer cells that grow slower found it also dramatically extended their survival, buying them precious extra months with loved ones. The drug cut the chances of the cancer progressing by 49 percent and the risk of dying during the study by 36 percent, compared with chemotherapy alone.

It almost doubled the time for which tumours remained stable or shrank from an average of 5.4 months to 10.1 months. And overall survival increased from 17.5 months to 23.9 months.

The findings suggest up to 16,800 people in the UK with breast cancer could benefit.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said it would consider the results when reassessing the medicine.

Breast cancer patients are currently divided into two categories depending on their levels of a protein called HER2, which causes faster tumour growth.

Those with high levels are HER2-positive and those with normal or low levels HER2-negative.

Enhertu trials are now under way to test the drug in low HER2 patients with earlier stage breast cancer. If successful, this could offer new treatment options to tens of thousands of women and even increase the number whose cancer is cured, it was said.

Dr Susan Galbraith, of Enhertu’s manufacturer AstraZeneca, sinemet dieta said: “It’s a historic advance and it’s a pivotal moment because it’s reclassifying breast cancer – that’s a fundamental shift.”

Dr Galbraith said the discovery was “very exciting” and that Enhertu could be available to this new group of patients with earlier stage breast cancer on the NHS in up to two years.

The findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual conference in Chicago yesterday.

Jane Lowe Meisel, an ASCO breast cancer expert from the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, said: “By effectively creating a new category of breast cancer, HER2-low, this trial will redefine how we classify breast cancer and will significantly expand the population of patients who can benefit from HER2-targeted therapy.”

Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, of the charity Breast Cancer Now, said: “It’s hugely exciting that Enhertu may benefit even more breast cancer patients, giving them the hope of additional precious time with their loved ones.

“This treatment must now be promptly submitted for licensing, and assessed for use on the NHS, so this different group of eligible women have the chance to benefit from it as soon as possible.”

Professor Charles Swanton, of Cancer Research UK, said: “This study could form the basis for future approvals to extend its use to more patients.”

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