The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has given the go-ahead for a new drug designed to help patients with advanced melanoma – the fifth most common cancer in the UK.
Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) targets cancer cells with the BRD V600 mutation – helping to block the growth of the cancer and prevent it from spreading further. It will only be available for patients whose cancer has spread or could not be completely removed via surgery.
NICE has already given the green light to a several other cancer drugs that target specific gene mutations, including vemurafenib and the monoclonal antibody, ipillimumab.
Dabrafenib will further help to improve the efficiency of skin cancer treatment and will make a significant difference to the prognosis of patients with malignant melanoma.
Professor Carole Longson, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, is very optimistic about the new addition, and described the drugs as “breakthrough treatments” for skin cancer.
“For a long time, the treatments available for skin cancer which has spread have been very limited,” she added.
Professor Paul Workman, interim chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, also expressed his enthusiasm for dabrafenib.
“Its approval underlines the importance of a new generation of cancer drugs targeted at specific molecular features of tumours – drugs which after years of painstaking development are now making their way to patients,” he said.
He also said that although dabrafenib is not a cure for malignant melanoma, it is an important step in the understanding of cancer development. It also provides another potentially life saving option for patients fighting to survive one of the most common diseases today.