Two breast cancer drugs get NHS approval

November 17, 2017
Two breast cancer drugs get NHS approval
Credit: Cancer Research UK

Two breast cancer drugs have been recommended for use by the NHS in England.

In draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved palbociclib (Ibrance) and ribociclib (Kisqali) for with advanced .

The drugs are thought to slow the growth of the disease and delay the need for other treatments.

Cancer Research UK – who funded the Nobel Prize-winning researchers whose work underpinned the drugs' development – welcomed the announcement. Rose Gray, senior policy advisor at the charity, said:

"These decisions have taken some time, but we're pleased that the Government and NICE are taking steps to streamline the process so that patients can access life-saving drugs more quickly," she said.

The approval comes after NICE agreed confidential price deals for the drugs. It had previously rejected palbociclib because its cost was too high in relation to its clinical effectiveness.

The drugs can now be given to patients with late stage breast cancer that is classified based on certain molecules being present or absent from the surface of the cancer cells. This type of breast cancer is called hormone sensitive or hormone receptor (HR) positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) negative disease.

The approval comes despite uncertainties about how long the drugs extend overall survival.

NICE looked at either drug taken with another kind of treatment called an aromatase inhibitor, for patients who hadn't been treated for their .

It found that both drugs stalled the growth of the cancer for an extra 10 months on average.

NICE concluded that it was likely that this would result in some improvement in overall survival, although this wasn't certain from available clinical trial results.

There have been calls for NICE to continue to evaluate based on how effective they are in NHS patients, and for this to contribute to drug pricing decisions.

By slowing down the advance of the cancer, the drugs can delay the need for chemotherapy, giving women the chance to live their regular life for longer. The two drugs work in a similar way and are given once daily.

The drugs are the first of a new type that slows the progression of cancer by switching off two molecules called CDK 4 and 6. Aromatase inhibitors work by blocking the production of the hormone oestrogen, stopping its ability to fuel some breast cancers.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said the approvals committee heard from patient experts that delaying the progression of their cancer for as long as possible was highly valued.

Longson added that by postponing disease progression the drugs "may reduce the number of people who are exposed to the often unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, and delay the need for its use in others".

"We are pleased therefore that the companies have been able to agree reductions to the price."

Professor Nicholas Turner, who led clinical trials of palbociclib at The Institute of Cancer Research, London and the Royal Marsden, said the drugs have made a huge difference to women's lives.

"These drugs have allowed women to live a normal life for longer," he said.

There are around 45,000 new diagnoses of each year in England. It is estimated that around 8,000 people in England would be eligible for treatment with either each year.

Explore further: Breast cancer drug not recommended for use in England

Related Stories

Breast cancer drug not recommended for use in England

September 4, 2017
The drug fulvestrant (Faslodex) has not been recommended in England to treat late stage breast cancer, in draft guidance.

Promising immunotherapy drug now available for some lung cancer patients in England

September 21, 2017
Some lung cancer patients in England can now be offered a potentially life-extending immunotherapy drug.

Breast cancer drug approved for NHS England

June 16, 2017
The drug trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) will soon be routinely available for patients in England with an advanced type of breast cancer.

Some cancer drugs approved in Europe might not have sufficient evidence of survival benefits, says study

October 6, 2017
Most cancer drugs approved in Europe from 2009-2013 weren't backed by sufficient scientific evidence that they work, according to a new study.

Palbociclib efficacious in metastatic breast cancer

November 17, 2016
(HealthDay)—Palbociclib can help slow the progression of advanced breast cancer, according to a study published in the Nov. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Drug combination slows breast cancer spread

March 2, 2016
A combination of two drugs delays progression of advanced, aggressive breast cancer by an average of nine months - working in all subsets of the most common type of breast cancer.

Recommended for you

Study prompts new ideas on cancers' origins

December 16, 2017
Rapidly dividing, yet aberrant stem cells are a major source of cancer. But a new study suggests that mature cells also play a key role in initiating cancer—a finding that could upend the way scientists think about the ...

What does hair loss have to teach us about cancer metastasis?

December 15, 2017
Understanding how cancer cells are able to metastasize—migrate from the primary tumor to distant sites in the body—and developing therapies to inhibit this process are the focus of many laboratories around the country. ...

Cancer immunotherapy may work better in patients with specific genes

December 15, 2017
Cancer cells arise when DNA is mutated, and these cells should be recognized as "foreign" by the immune system. However, cancer cells have found ways to evade detection by the immune system.

Scientists pinpoint gene to blame for poorer survival rate in early-onset breast cancer patients

December 15, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the University of Southampton has found that inherited variation in a particular gene may be to blame for the lower survival rate of patients diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer.

Scientists unlock structure of mTOR, a key cancer cell signaling protein

December 14, 2017
Researchers in the Sloan Kettering Institute have solved the structure of an important signaling molecule in cancer cells. They used a new technology called cryo-EM to visualize the structure in three dimensions. The detailed ...

'Bet hedging' explains the efficacy of many combination cancer therapies

December 14, 2017
The efficacy of many FDA-approved cancer drug combinations is not due to synergistic interactions between drugs, but rather to a form of "bet hedging," according to a new study published by Harvard Medical School researchers ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.