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NICE recommends skin cancer drug for approval

Wednesday 28th November 2018
A melanoma drug designed to help people whose cancer has spread to the lymph nodes should be available on the NHS next month after it was approved for use.
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The National Institute for Health and Clinical excellence (NICE) has recommended the use of the skin cancer drug Pembrolizumab for adults whose melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes. 

Also known as Keytruda, it will be paid for via the Cancer Drugs Fund. The drug will be given to patients who have had surgery to remove the cancer as an adjuvant immunotherapy to remove any cancer left behind. 

Director for NICE’s Centre for Health Technology Evaluation Meindert Boysen said: "There are currently no adjuvant immunotherapies recommended by NICE for people who have had surgery to remove their melanoma, a disease which even after surgical removal, has a high risk of recurrence.

“With support from the company, and NHS England, we will be able to publish final guidance almost at the same time as the license for this indication is granted."

He added that this streamlined process "highlights the speed" at which NICE is able to make recommendations about the use of drugs. 

The drug is administered at intervals of once every three weeks, via an IV drip. It will be on offer to patients once marketing authorisation has been confirmed. NICE expects that this will take place early next month. 

It may be a frequently used drug, as nearly 16,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed in Britain each year, making it the fifth most common form of cancer in the UK.

In most cases, melanoma can be spotted quickly and treated swiftly, with the affected area of skin being surgically removed to prevent any further spread. In the case of patients who will use Pembrolizumab, the disease will have spread further by the time this intervention takes place. 

The NHS has noted that treatments for melanoma have advanced to the point where even stage 4 conditions are now regularly survivable, whereas in the past the mortality rate was very high. 

Written by James Puckle

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