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NICE gives NHS approval to three new thyroid cancer drugs

Monday 26th February 2018
The thyroid cancer drugs cabozantib, sorafenib and lenvatinib have all been approved by NICE for routine use on the NHS. Image: Dr_Microbe via iStock
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Three new drugs designed for the treatment of thyroid cancer have been approved for prescription on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended that cabozantib, sorafenib and lenvatinib (marketed under the names Cometriq, Nexavar and Lenvima respectively) can be routinely prescribed for NHS thyroid cancer patients moving forward. Both cabozantib and sorafenib were previously available under the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Lenvatinib and sorafenib have been recommended by NICE for the treatment of differentiated thyroid cancers, after patients have already undergone surgery and radioactive iodine therapy, but their disease has continued to spread. This is thought to be the case for around 200 of the 1,800 to 2,790 people diagnosed with this form of the illness each year.

Meanwhile, cabozantib has been recommended for patients with medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) who are unable to undergo surgery or whose cancer is spreading around their body. Trials involving the drug showed that it was able to extend patients' lives by an average of 5.5 months by stopping their cancer from growing further.

MTC is a much rarer form of thyroid cancer that affects around 80 people each year, Cabozantib is only the second drug available on the NHS for the treatment of this type of cancer at present.

Mirella Marlow, acting director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, commented: "Treatment options for these types of thyroid cancer are limited, so it is important that we are able to give patients much-needed access to alternatives to best supportive care at this stage of their disease.

"These drugs will give patients extra time, as well as improving their quality of life."

NICE believes that around 1,300 thyroid cancer patients will be in line to benefit from these three drugs over the next five years alone. However, diagnoses of the illness are on the up, having more than doubled in the UK over the past decade.

Written by James Puckle

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