Health secretary Alan Milburn announced he was 'making cancer treatment a personal priority'as he appointed a cancer 'czar' this week.

The appointment of Professor Mike Richards, who runs cancer services at Guy's and St Thomas' trust in London, as national cancer director, was part of an£80m anti-cancer package.

Mr Milburn also announced he was demanding 'early clear-cut guidance' on the use of drugs to treat ovarian and breast cancer which health authorities would be expected to follow 'to the letter'.

But the National Institute for Clinical Excellence denied it had been asked to speed up its review of Taxol and Taxotere.

Director of communications AnneToni Rodgers said: 'We haven't been asked to do anything and I doubt we would because the process and procedures have all been agreed.'

The drugs were already on a list of 10 technologies for a first wave of NICE appraisals.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'The secretary of state has asked NICE to bring forward consideration of taxanes to its January meeting' from February.