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Advanced kidney cancer drug approved by NICE for use on NHS

Micrograph of kidney cancer cells


A new treatment approved for use on the NHS in England and Wales could prolong the life expectancy of patients with advanced kidney cancer, according to experts.

Cabozantinib (Cabometyx, Ipsen), which was approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on 10 July, is a small molecule that works by inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels within a tumour, consequently preventing it from spreading any further.

For patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which starts in cells lining the small tubes in the kidney that help to make urine and spreads to other parts of the kidney, the new treatment offers an increased chance of improved, progression-free survival.

It was approved for use in Scotland in June 2017.

Tom Powles, professor of medical oncology at Barts Cancer Institute, said: “The NICE approval of cabozantinib is an important decision for advanced kidney cancer patients as it is one of the few drugs in this disease which extends survival.

“This approval will help patients in an area of unmet need. Further research is needed to continue the progress towards long-term remissions and cure.”

NICE initially assessed the drug in February 2017, but felt it could not recommend it at that time due to unreliable clinical evidence from the pharmaceutical company, Ipsen. The company revised its submission to strengthen the evidence, and the NICE committee was then able to conclude that cabozantinib is a cost-effective, viable treatment option for people with advanced RCC.

“There are limited treatment option available for people who have advanced kidney cancer,” says Carole Longson, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE. “I am very pleased that the new evidence submitted means we can recommend cabozantinib.”

In August 2016, along with lenvatinib (marketed as Kisplyx), cabozantinib was recommended by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for fast track approval across the EU as they both target patients with an “unmet medical need”

It is estimated that 1,000 patients with RCC will be eligible for treatment with the new drug.

Nick Turkentine, chief executive of Kidney Cancer UK, said the approval would bring the charity one step closer to fighting kidney cancer, which is rapidly on the rise in the UK.

“There is a clear unmet need for treatments of patients with late-stage disease and as such, the approval of this effective therapy option offers new hope for patients and their families,” he said.

According to Cancer Research UK, kidney cancer is the 7th most common cancer in the UK (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) with around 12,500 kidney cancers being diagnosed in the UK in 2014.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203136

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