Cancer drug hope for thousands

Cancer drug hope for thousands. A drug which can extend the lives of cancer sufferers may be approved on the NHS after the manufacturer agreed to pay for extra treatments.

The drug, called trabectedin, also called Yondelis, can extend the lives of people with cancers in their soft tissues such as fat and muscle, by an average of three months.

In draft guidance the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence recommended the drug be used on the NHS.

There are around 2,000 people in Britain with the cancer known as soft tissue sarcoma.

Nice has recommended its use where other treatments have failed or cannot be tolerated because of side effect, and where the manufacturer agrees to pay for treatment with a fifth dose if necessary.

The drug was approved under new rules in which greater weight is given to drugs that can extend the lives of people with rare diseases.

Earlier this year Nice issued draft guidance turning the drug down because of its high cost but now the maker PharmaMar has agreed to pay for treatment with a fifth dose if necessary.

Similar schemes have been applied to other drugs.

Trabectedin works by damaging the cancer cells which stops them from spreading and multiplying.

For the average patient each dose of the drug would cost aroun £3,500 and are given as an infusion into the vein over 24 hours, three weeks apart.

Around 110 patients with advanced soft tissue sarcoma will be eligible for treatment in England and Wales.

Dr Carole Longson, Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director at Nice said: “We are delighted the Independent Appraisal Committee has been able to recommend trabectedin in its draft guidance. It has certainly not been an easy decision to make; soft tissue sarcoma is a rare cancer and the evidence was limited.

“However, treatment options for this type of cancer are limited and in the last 20 years there have been no major developments to treat the advanced stages of this disease. Being able to recommend trabectedin for use on the NHS represents a step forward in the care of this group of patients who may have very few treatment options left.”

Roger Wilson, Director of Sarcoma UK, said: "I am delighted that trabectedin has been approved. This is the end of a challenging process for sarcoma patients and the doctors who treat them, as well as for NICE.

"This drug benefits a large proportion of the small number of patients who receive it. I have long believed that trabectedin has a significant part to play in the treatment of advanced soft tissue sarcoma. The manufacturer, PharmaMar, deserves praise for its determination to get this drug approved and it must be thanked too for its constructive approach to making the treatment accessible to patients in the UK." ( )

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