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NICE recommends drug for soft tissue cancers

Newspage: DoctorNICE has today recommended the use of trabectedin (Yondelis)on the NHS, in a move that could help to extend the lives of hundreds of patients with advanced soft tissue sarcoma.

It is estimated that up to 600 people in England and Wales are living with advanced soft tissue sarcoma, a form of cancer that develops in soft, supporting body tissue such as fat, muscle and in blood vessels.

There have been no new treatments for this group of rare cancers for more than a quarter of a century. Traditional chemotherapies get a poor response when used to treat advanced disease and although a small percentage of patients achieve remission, survival rates are low.

The availability of trabectedin - which works by damaging the DNA in cancer cells to stop them from growing and spreading -offers fresh hope to patients with this rare cancer. The use of the drug could help to extend life by at least three months more than other treatments currently available on the NHS.

The final guidance recommends trabectedin as a treatment for people with advanced soft tissue sarcoma if treatment with anthracylines and ifosfamide has failed or if they are intolerant of or have contraindications to the drugs.

Dr Carole Longson, Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director at NICEsaid: “Being able to recommend trabectedin for use on the NHS represents a step forward in the care of this group of patients who may have very few treatment options left.”

NICE had previously issued draft guidance that did not recommend trabectedin due to its high cost. However, the manufacturer PharmaMar has offered to cover the costs of the drug for any patient who needs it beyond five treatment cycles, under the Patient Access Scheme. This improves the overall cost-effectiveness of the drug to the NHS, allowing NICE to recommend the drug.

The independent appraisal committee also applied NICE's criteria for evaluating life-extending, end of life treatments.

The NHS will now have three months to implement this new guidance.

24 February 2010

This page was last updated: 14 April 2010

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Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.