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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

NHS approves new advanced skin cancer drug

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

22nd January 2016 -- The NHS is England is to make nivolumab (Opdivo) available as a new treatment option for advanced skin cancer.

Cancer experts have welcomed the decision, saying that before now, patients with advanced melanoma had few treatment options.

Nivolumab was also considered by NICE last year for locally advanced or metastatic squamous non-small-cell lung cancer, but it was not recommended.


The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has taken the unusual step of not consulting on draft recommendations for the treatment and issuing final guidance for consultation straight away.

Nivolumab is approved as a single drug treatment for advanced melanoma. It works by targeting proteins on a patient's immune cells that allow them to more effectively hunt down and destroy cancer cells.

Research has found the 1-year survival rate for nivolumab was 73% compared with 42% for standard chemotherapy.

The drug is given by IV drip every 2 weeks. The dose varies depending on the weight of each patient, but would cost around £5,700 a month.

'Great to see'

In a statement, Professor Carole Longson, Health Technology Evaluation Centre director, says: "We are pleased to be able to recommend nivolumab for treating advanced skin cancer in final draft guidance. In 2011, over 13,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma in the UK, and it accounts for more deaths than all other skin cancers combined. I am sure this will be welcome news to patients and healthcare professionals alike."

Reacting to the NICE decision in a statement, Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, says: "It’s great to see NICE approve nivolumab, which is an effective and innovative new immunotherapy for melanoma, for use on the NHS. Patients with advanced melanoma currently have few treatment options, so it’s positive that NICE has approved this at the first time of asking. It’s vital that we get novel and exciting cancer treatments to patients as quickly as possible, and avoid the tortuous back and forths we have seen with other recent appraisals."

Wales usually follows NICE guidance on drug funding. The Scottish Medicine’s Consortium is due to decide on nivolumab in March.

Reviewed on January 22, 2016

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