22. August 2011 11:26
Yervoy (ipilimumab, pictured) has become the first licensed treatment for advanced skin cancer launched in the UK since the 1970s.
The Bristol-Myers Squibb drug has been shown to almost double life expectancy after a year in Phase III trials and works by stimulating the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
Dr Paul Lorigan, Senior Lecturer in Medical Oncology, the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, says the license ‘represents a real advance’ in treating skin cancer.
NICE is still conducting its appraisal of Yervoy for use on the NHS, although patients can apply to the Government’s Cancer Drugs Fund to receive the injection.
In the pivotal Phase III clinical trial, almost half (46%) of patients were still alive after a year when receiving Yervoy, compared to a quarter who were treated with a vaccine called gp1003.
Patients are injected four times with Yervoy at a cost of around £75,000. Despite the high cost of the treatment, Dr Lorigan insists the authorisation by the EMA is a “stride forward” for patients.
“The authorisation of ipilimumab represents a real advance in the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma because it is the first treatment to be licensed in the UK for 30 years that may extend patients’ life expectancy,” said Dr Lorigan.
The current standard of treatment, dacarbazine, has been used in the UK for the last three decades.
Yervoy has also been approved by the FDA in the US.