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Melanoma drug cocktail approved for use on NHS

Thursday 20th September 2018
A new combined drug therapy that can improve melanoma recovery outcomes has been licensed for use on the NHS.
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A new melanoma drug cocktail has been approved for use on the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The treatment comprises the drugs dabrafenib plus trametinib, which when used in combination can have a positive impact on the survival chances of people suffering from stage III melanoma.

A mutated gene called BRAF is found to be involved in around half the 15,400 new cases of melanoma identified in the UK each year and this can cause the condition to return even after surgery to remove the cancerous skin cells. 

In a clinical trial of more than 800 patients, the new therapy was found to make a marked difference to the chances of relapse in the three years after surgery, with 58 per cent of those taking it remaining cancer free, compared to 39 per cent of the placebo group.

Deputy director for the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation Mirella Marlow, said: "There are currently no adjuvant treatments available for people with stage III BRAF V600 mutation-positive melanoma, a disease which can cause severe and debilitating symptoms.

"We are therefore delighted that we were able to work with the company and NHS England to recommend dabrafenib plus trametinib as a new treatment option, marking an important development in the management of melanoma."

NICE estimates 427 patients will be eligible for the treatment, which will be taken in the form of three pills a day, two dabrafenib and one trametinib.

Among those to welcome the new treatment was skin cancer charity Melanoma UK.

Gill Nuttall from the charity said that the number of cases of melanoma is continuing to rise in the UK, with those undergoing surgery facing an "extremely stressful" situation of waiting after surgery to see if the condition has returned. 

She commented that the drugs constitute a "huge step forward" for BRAF-positive patients, who until now have had "few options" beyond surgery. 

Written by James Puckle

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