NHS watchdog rejects rare cancer drug

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A cancer drug which has potential to stop rare tumours returning has been refused for use on the NHS owing to a lack of evidence, the health watchdog said today.

Glivec (imatinib) is already recommended as a treatment for patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumours (Gist) that cannot be removed by surgery.

In its latest appraisal, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) examined whether Glivec should also be given to patients whose tumour has been removed and who are at risk of the cancer recurring.

It concluded there was a lack of evidence to show whether Glivec in this setting extended life expectancy and it was unclear how long treatment should be continued for.

Nice also expressed concerns about resistance to the drug developing, saying this could render the drug ineffective if a patient needs it when their cancer has come back.

The watchdog said it would review the situation in 2011 after more evidence is published.

About 900 people in the UK develop a Gist each year, mostly between the ages of 50 and 60.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, said: "At around £19,500 per patient per year, this is an expensive drug, and we need to be more confident about how well it works and what its side-effects are before we consider recommending it for use in the NHS.

"The Appraisal Committee did, however, recommend that an early review date should be set for this appraisal so that evidence on the impact of adjuvant imatinib treatment on overall survival can be considered as soon as results from ongoing trials become available.

"Nice already recommends imatinib for patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia and for those with gastrointestinal stromal tumours that cannot be removed by surgery."

The announcement comes after Nice rejected the drug Avastin for people with advanced bowel cancer.

Clinical data submitted by Roche to Nice showed Avastin can typically offer patients an extra six weeks of life when added to chemotherapy.

Patients typically lived 21.3 months compared with 19.9 months with chemotherapy alone.

Avastin costs almost £21,000 per patient and an estimated 6,500 people per year could be eligible for the dru