27 November 2017

Merck invited to submit a CDF proposal for Merkel cell cancer drug

NICE has asked Merck to submit a Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) proposal for an immunotherapy called avelumab.

Merck invited to submit a CDF proposal for Merkel cell cancer drug

Avelumab (marketed as Bavencio) was assessed by NICE as a treatment for people who have Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare type of skin cancer.

The NICE committee found current clinical data suggests avelumab can extend patient survival compared with chemotherapy. However, the evidence is from one small trial and data is still being collected, so the results are uncertain. Therefore, NICE are inviting Merck to submit a CDF proposal for avelumab.

Including a drug in the CDF means patients can have access to the drug while the company gathers more data. This additional evidence will then be submitted to the NICE committee to reconsider the drug for routine availability in the NHS.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE said: “Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer. There are limited treatment options and the cancer can spread rapidly, which we know can be frightening for both patients and families.

“Avelumab is a promising treatment that has the potential to be cost effective. I hope Merck will work with us to submit a CDF proposal.”

Avelumab is a form of immunotherapy, a treatment that has been hailed as an innovative way to battle cancer – it works by harnessing the power of the patient’s own immune system to destroy their cancer cells.

MCC is a rare and aggressive cancer. It occurs in the top layer of the skin, often close to nerve endings, which means the tumours can be painful. More than 1,500 people in England were diagnosed with MCC in 1999-2008. Nearly 1,200 (79%) of these people died within two years of their diagnosis.

Avelumab is a promising treatment that has the potential to be cost effective. I hope Merck will work with us to submit a CDF proposal.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE