SWINDON breast cancer campaigner Ann Marie Rogers will have to wait to learn whether she has won a groundbreaking legal challenge to be treated with so-called wonder drug Herceptin.

A High Court judge has said he would not be giving judgment immediately, adding: "The case is much too important for that.'' But Mr Justice Bean, sitting in London, added that he would not delay "more than absolutely necessary" giving a ruling which could affect many other breast cancer sufferers.

Mrs Rogers, 54, has been refused the drug which is said to halve the chances of the aggressive HER-2 form of breast cancer returning by Swindon Primary Care Trust (PCT).

On Monday she compared the PCT's decision as being "like a death sentence."

Mrs Rogers, a former restaurant manager from Haydon Wick, has borrowed £5,000 for treatments so far but says she cannot afford to fund further courses.

Her lawyer Ian Wise is asking the court to overturn Swindon PCT's policy of only funding a Herceptin treatment in early stage cases of breast cancer if there are "exceptional circumstances" and has argued that patients are being subjected to "a postcode lottery".

The cost of Herceptin is £21,800 per patient per year.

Mr Wise said there was a 57 per cent chance of Mrs Rogers' breast cancer recurring in 10 years and if it did so it would be fatal.

He said it also breached Ms Rogers's human rights.

Mr Wise asked the court to quash the PCT's decision and order it to continue funding Ms Rogers' current course of treatment, and to continue to provide her with Herceptin.

Philip Havers QC, appearing for the PCT, told the court: "The fact is this drug has not yet been licensed as a treatment for early stage breast cancer, or appraised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as to its efficacy and its safety."

Mr Havers said there had only been two trials of Herceptin for treatment of early stage breast cancer and side effects included lung and heart damage.

Eleanor Grey, appearing for the Health Secretary, said that the guidance to PCTs was that treatment with Herceptin should not be refused solely on grounds of cost.

But cost could be considered as one factor among others, including the surrounding circumstances of each case.

Reserving judgment at the end of the two-day hearing, Mr Justice Bean said he hoped to give his ruling next week.

Shirley Gorman, 58, of Shelley Street, who set up the Swindon branch of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994. She said she was backing Mrs Rogers all the way.

"I think there is no question that she should get the treatment and I think it is terrible that she is having to go through what she is going through at the moment. The implications will be far reaching, but this case has to happen," she said Dr Peter Crouch, of Taw Hill Medical Centre said: "I think you can have sympathy for both sides.

"For me it is disappointing that Swindon Primary Care Trust is being pushed through the media like this.

"Although it is a pertinent case to Swindon, it is also pertinent to many other trusts as well.

"The decisions about the rest of the population should be made by the Primary Care Trust but it should be the doctor who decides what are the benefits for the patient."