Prostate Cancer Treatment

February 2, 2012 by staff 

Prostate Cancer Treatment, Prostate cancer breakthrough drug Zytiga deemed too expensive for NHS use, A drug hailed as a breakthrough in extending the lives of men with late-stage prostate cancer is too expensive for use on the NHS, a watchdog said today.

Leading cancer experts described the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s (Nice) decision not to recommend abiraterone for use on the NHS as a “huge blow” to patients who have very few treatment options left.

Cancer Research UK said the draft decision – which is still open to consultation – made “no sense” and Nice had used the wrong criteria to judge the drug.

Abiraterone was developed by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden in London after the discovery that some prostate cancers can produce their own testosterone.

It works by blocking the production of male hormones in all tissues, not just the testes, including both the adrenal glands and the tumours themselves.

A trial published a year ago showed men survived an average of four months longer and suffered far less pain with abiraterone compared to those taking a placebo. Some men did much better, including two who were still alive after starting the treatment in 2007.

Abiraterone has been regarded as a “success story” for the ICR following more than two decades of work to develop the drug.

Experts said it has not only improved survival for men with prostate cancer but has also changed the way scientists think about the disease.

Although Nice has said abiraterone – also called Zytiga – is clinically effective, it is not good value for money for the NHS at the price set by the manufacturer, Janssen.

A spokeswoman for the ICR said: “We are obviously disappointed with this preliminary decision.

“We hope Nice will now work with the drug manufacturer to reach a solution that will make the drug more widely available to patients with advanced prostate cancer.

“An estimated 10,500 men in the UK have advanced prostate cancer that has become resistant to standard hormone treatments.

“We have had much success in the past few years in developing new drugs for advanced prostate cancer.”

Patient groups have also reacted angrily to the draft guidance.

Phil Burr, chair of the West Wales Prostate Cancer Support Group, said: “I’m horrified by this decision.

“The NHS will not screen men for prostate cancer and, therefore, too many discover their cancer when it has spread beyond the prostate and can no longer be cured.

“Abiraterone is a new and very promising drug which has been proven to extend lives and the quality of life for men with advanced disease.”

Keith Cass, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2006 and founded the Red Sock campaign, said: “This is not an expensive treatment – it’s cheap as chips. You know almost immediately who’s not going to respond and for those men who do respond, the benefits are immeasurable.

“If men don’t get abiraterone, they will have to have chemotherapy or they will be left to die.”

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