Health watchdogs fast-track new renal cancer drug

A new drug to treat advanced kidney cancer has been fast-tracked for use on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) now recommends Votrient (pazopanib) for patients with advanced cancer if they meet certain criteria, including no previous cytokine therapy.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to offer a 12.5 per cent discount on the list price to the NHS and a possible future rebate following the outcome of a clinical trial comparing the drug to another, sunitinib (Sutent), which is already approved.

It comes after Nice came under fire in November for turning down everolimus (Afinitor) for advanced kidney cancer, despite a risk-sharing scheme proposed by manufacturer Novartis.

Nice said the drug did not give patients enough benefit to justify its cost. Research suggests everolimus extends life by three months on average but at 99 per day per patient, it was deemed too expensive.

Sutent is already recommended in some cases for advanced kidney cancer, but other drugs including bevacizumab (Avastin), sorafenib (Nexavar) and temsirolimus (Torisel) are not.

Dr Carole Longson, health technology evaluation centre director at Nice, said: "Sunitinib is recommended by Nice for first line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma.

"Pazopanib will offer patients an additional option and, for some, a more favourable side effect profile.

"The manufacturer has offered a straight discount on the list price of pazopanib, as well as providing a possible future rebate linked to the outcome of the head-to-head trial comparing pazopanib and sunitinib; making pazopanib a cost-effective option for the NHS."

Every year more than 8,000 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed in the UK and almost half will lead to death.

Around four out of 10 patients are diagnosed when their cancer is at an advanced stage.

Broadcaster James Whale, a kidney cancer survivor and founder of the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer, said: "Kidney cancer patients will find this approval of the cancer drug Votrient a great comfort so close to Christmas.

"Nice has been fully aware that the mood of the Government and the general public is that terminally-ill cancer patients should not be denied cancer treatment and, after the farce surrounding the refusal of everolimus earlier last month, some good news is long overdue.

"As someone who has been directly affected by kidney cancer, I understand just how imperative access to these life-prolonging drugs is."

Rose Woodward, head of patient support at the fund, said: "We have campaigned for many years for more drugs like Votrient to be made readily available because kidney cancer is a type of cancer that is very difficult to treat.

"It cannot be treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy like many other cancers.

"Once kidney cancer spreads, these new drugs are the only hope that patients have to extend their life."