A cancer charity is calling on the Government to increase funding of new targeted therapies that could prolong patients' lives.

More than 1,200 bowel cancer sufferers in the Midlands could live to see Christmas if they were given access to new targeted therapies.

Figures released by charity Beating Bowel Cancer reveal that 16 people a day are diagnosed with the disease, which is the second biggest cancer killer in Britain.

While 12 per cent of patients are able to have new treatment within the private sector, only a handful of NHS patients can do so.

On average, targeted therapies can extend a patient's life by five months but in the future, combined with other treatments, they could achieve curative results in early stage bowel cancer. The Government spends £360 million a year on chemotherapy, which represents just three per cent of its annual budget.

Hilary Whittaker, the charity's chief executive, said: "We have people calling us daily, confused about these treatments - they don't understand why they can't get them.

"Others have been forced to remortgage their homes in order to pay for treatment which could offer them a chance of a longer life."

One in four people in the Midlands said they would have to use their life savings or remortgage their home to pay for treatment if it was not provided by the NHS.

Dr Simon Grumett, consultant medical oncologist at Russells Hall Hospital, in Dudley, said it was important the treatment was not restricted "purely due to cost".

He added: "Targeted therapies are a significant development in the treatment of bowel cancer that can help a patient live longer without the additional side effects typically associated with chemotherapy."