Approval for new skin cancer drug

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has given the go-ahead for a drug that could be effective for patients with advanced melanoma.

Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) is a new generation cancer drug, which targets particular gene mutations.

NICE has stated that the drug should be available to patients, on condition that it was sold to the NHS at a discounted price.

Its final draft guidance stipulated that the drug should be used for patients who have experienced a spread in the cancer, or the cancer was unable to be completely eliminated by surgery, and the patient had tested positive for the mutation.

The drug targets cells with the BRAF V600 mutation and is able to block the cancer growth.

Vemurafenib has already been recommended by NICE as it targets the same mutation, and the antibody ipilimumab has been recommended for advanced melanoma.

The director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, Professor Carole Longson, said skin cancer treatments has been extremely limited for a very long time. She said in recent years there have been a number of treatments, which could improve the prognosis for patients with malignant melanoma. She stated that NICE have already recommended ipilimumab and vemurafenib, and they are hoping that debrafenib will be added to the list of available choices.

The interim chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research has welcomed the decision by NICE. He said that the approval indicates the importance of a new set of cancer drugs which target specific tumour features, and after many years of development, these are now becoming available to patients.

Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, said that this decision offers patients more choice in their survival of this aggressive form of cancer. He said the drug may not provide a cure, but it offers progress in understanding the biology of advanced skin cancer, which may allow for the development of more effective treatments.

In the UK, malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer and accounts for 4% of all the new cases.

Image Credit: Ed Uthman

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