A new drug to treat colorectal cancer could soon bring fresh hope for Hong Kong patients at what would otherwise be the terminal stage of their illness. Clinical trials in the United States have found that Cetuximab can effectively improve the condition of 80 per cent of patients for a median period of 12 months when used with conventional chemotherapy, according to Kevin Loh Kai-tsu, an oncology specialist. It was found in one case that the drug could reduce tumours by at least half, allowing some patients to undergo surgery, Dr Loh explained. 'In most cases, the tumour is too big to carry out surgeries. So it would be important if the tumour could be shrunk,' he said. He said the drug had been in use in the US for about 11/2 years and would soon be registered in Hong Kong. Dr Loh also said the common side effects of the drug were very minor compared to those of conventional chemotherapy. Using the drug costs about $60,000 a month, according to Merck, which has licensed the right to market it outside North America.