Breast Cancer Patients’ Distress at Withdrawal of Kadcyla


“Terminal breast cancer patients have spoken of their distress after learning that a life-extending drug they had been told would be available to them looks set to be withdrawn.

“Advisory body NICE is reviewing drugs made available through the old cancer drugs fund, and has rejected Kadcyla for use on the NHS in England.

“It believes the price per patient set by manufacturer Roche is too expensive. Roche says discussions are continuing.”

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Keytruda/Pembrolizumab Is on the Fast Track for Approval in the UK

“Pembrolizumab is a treatment for advanced skin cancer and is the first medicine to be approved through the Early Access to Medicines scheme (EAMS), launched in England last April.

“The idea is to get pioneering drugs to severely ill patients much sooner.

“Drugs signed off through EAMS have been scrutinised by regulators, weighing the risks and benefits.

“A green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) means doctors anywhere in the UK can prescribe the drug in question before normal licensing procedures – which can take years – are complete.”

Bad News for UK Cancer Patients: NHS Denies Access to Eight Drugs

The gist: The National Health Service has decided not to fund certain cancer drugs for patients in the UK. This article lists and describes them.

“Here are eight drugs among those expected to be “delisted” so that they are not routinely funded by the NHS.


“Treats women with an aggressive form of breast cancer and is derived from sea sponges.

“It can extend life by almost five months on average and around half of women live longer than a year after getting the drug, which costs around £10,000 for a six-month course of treatment.

“The drug is prescribed as standard care to women in 55 countries, including all major EU members, Japan, Korea and Russia.”

Routine Genetic Testing Rolled out in Cancer Fight

“Plans for widespread DNA testing for genetic mutations will see tens of thousands of patients diagnosed and treated faster for conditions like cancer.

“Sequencing of patients’ entire genetic code is to become routine for the health service, with eleven hospitals across England already earmarked for where tests are to begin in the new year.

“The 100,000 Genome Project has been hailed as a move that will allow the UK to ‘unlock longstanding mysteries of disease on behalf of humankind’.

“Medical director of NHS England, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, said the project would help position the health service as a world leader.

“It is hoped that mapping a person’s entire genetic code will enable scientists to better understand the DNA mutations, which cause cancer and other rare genetic conditions.”

Certain Prostate Cancer Patients in England and Wales May Soon Get Access to Xofigo Treatment

“It is looking likely that patients with prostate cancer will, in certain circumstances, get ‘routine’ access to treatment with Bayer’s Xofigo (radium 223) on the National Health Service in England and Wales.

“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published draft guideline’s endorsing the drug as an option to treat adults with hormone-relapsed prostate cancer, symptomatic bone metastases and no known visceral metastases.

“But this only extends to patients who have already been treated with docetaxel, and the recommendation is contingent upon on Bayer providing the drug with a confidential discount agreed in a patient access scheme.

“Xofigo is a radio-pharmaceutical agent designed to directly deliver alpha radiation to bone metastases without affecting normal bone marrow. Bayer estimates the average cost for a six-month course with the drug (administered intravenously every four weeks) to be around £24,240.”

'Screen More' for Cancer Risk Genes

“Mutations in BRCA genes can give women up to an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

“A trial involving 1,034 Ashkenazi Jews, who are at high risk, suggested more than half of their cases were not being picked up under the current NHS guidelines.

“The Eve Appeal charity said wider testing would save lives and money.

“Mutations in BRCA genes stop DNA repairing itself and increase the risk of cancer developing.

“As well as breast cancer, they are also linked to ovarian and prostate cancers.”

Cancer Patients Failed by Latest Breach of '62 Day Wait' Target

“Experts say that cancer patients are being failed as new figures show waiting time targets for treatment have been missed for the third consecutive quarter.

“The figures show that between July and September this year more than five thousand cancer patients have waited more than 62 days for treatment.

“The ’62-day-wait’ target was introduced to set a cap on the time between GP referral and the start of treatment for cancer patients.

“The target in England is for 85 per cent of patients to start their treatment within 62 days of their urgent referral.

“But today’s figures from NHS England show that for the last quarter only 83.5 per cent of patients began treatment within this window. This follows a worrying downward trend from 84.4 per cent and 84.1 per cent in the previous two quarters.

“Since the third quarter of last year (October – December 2013) there has been a 2.3 per cent fall in patients being treated within the two month target.

“Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and information, said: ‘This isn’t just about missed targets – consecutive breaches mean thousands of patients are being failed.’ “

UK’s NICE Proposes to Recommend GSK’s Tafinlar for Melanoma

“UK drugs watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued final draft guidance recommending UK pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline’s (LSE: GSK) Tafinlar (dabrafenib) for the treatment of melanoma which has spread or can’t be completely removed by surgery and tests positive for the BRAF V600 mutation.

“NICE proposes recommending dabrafenib on the basis that GSK provides the drug to the National Health Service with a discount on the list price. The size of the discount is commercial in confidence.

“Carole Longson, Centre for Health Technology Evaluation director at NICE, said: ‘For a long time the treatments available for skin cancer which has spread have been very limited. However, in recent years a number of breakthrough treatments that can potentially significantly improve the prognosis for some people with malignant melanoma have become available. NICE has already recommended vemurafenib and ipilimumab and we hope to add dabrafenib to the list of options available. The information provided by GlaxoSmithKline, who markets the drug, suggested that dabrafenib works just as well as vemurafenib which also targets melanoma with the BRAF V600 mutation. Drugs like dabrafenib are also thought to have very rapid positive effect for patients, even in those who are very unwell or bed-ridden. In some cases, it has enabled people to resume everyday activities.’ ”

Editor’s note: Tafinlar is a targeted drug used to treat patients whose melanoma has spread (metastasized) or cannot be removed by surgery, and has a mutation called BRAF V600, as detected by molecular testing.

NICE Says No to First-Line Yervoy in Advanced Melanoma

“Patients with advanced skin cancer will be disappointed with news that cost regulators are planning to bar ‘routine’ first-line access to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy (ipilimumab) on the National Health Service in England and Wales.

“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published draft guidelines recommending that the skin cancer treatment only be used by the NHS for patients in clinical trials, because current evidence is lacking.

“The Institute has already endorsed Yervoy as a second-line treatment for advanced malignant melanoma, but says the evidence provided by B-MS fails to conclusively show the degree to which the drug can extend life in previously untreated patients when compared with current standard care.”