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Targeted ovarian cancer drug made available to more people on NHS in England

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by In collaboration with PA Media Group | News

11 December 2019

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A woman recording her medication

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has made olaparib (Lynparza), a targeted cancer drug, more widely available for people with ovarian cancer on the NHS in England.

Cancer Research UK has called the decision “good news” for those who could benefit from the treatment.

Trial results have shown that olaparib, which stops cancer cells repairing damage to their DNA, can give patients more time before their cancer gets significantly bigger.   

The drug will be used to help prolong the effects of treatment for patients whose disease has come back and whose cancer tests positive for a faulty version of the BRCA gene. The decision covers people whose cancer has responded to second or later lines of platinum-based chemotherapy.

“Olaparib is an example of a PARP inhibitor, a type of drug which Cancer Research UK researchers had a key role in developing, so it’s great that more patients will now be able to benefit from its use.” – Rose Gray, policy manager at Cancer Research UK

More patients to benefit

Olaparib has been available as a so-called maintenance treatment since 2016 for patients with relapsed BRCA-positive ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer who’ve received 3 lines of platinum-based chemotherapy.

In August this year, NICE approved the use of olaparib as a maintenance treatment for people with newly-diagnosed advanced disease, if their cancer tests positive for a faulty BRCA gene, and if they have responded to a first round of platinum-based chemotherapy.

This decision made the treatment available much earlier during patients’ treatment plan, as it could be given after the first round of chemotherapy and before the disease relapsed, for up to 2 years.

Now, in this latest decision published at the end of November, NICE have extended olaparib’s use to those who have received 2 lines of chemotherapy, through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) for patients who have had 2 lines of chemotherapy. 

The latest decision also confirmed it will continue to be routinely available to those who have had 3 or more lines of chemo.

In a clinical trial, olaparib has shown to delay the time before these cancers get worse, compared to a dummy drug (placebo). 

Of the 391 people on the trial, those taking the dummy drug lived for an average of 13.8 months, whereas at the time of publishing the study, 60 out of 100 of those taking olaparib were still alive. 

Olaparib to be offered routinely after third round of chemo

NICE said it was convinced of the long-term benefits of olaparib to patients who have had 3 previous courses of chemotherapy. 

But because NICE is still collecting evidence to determine whether olaparib can benefit patients who have had only 2 rounds of chemo, the treatment has been made available through the CDF. More data can now be collected on olaparib’s benefits for this group of patients.

The decision came off the back of patients and clinicians telling NICE that making olaparib more widely available would mean more patients could have a better quality of life and stay disease-free for longer.

Gray praised the decision to make olaparib available through the CDF, saying: “Because the drug has been approved through the Cancer Drugs Fund, these patients will be able to access it quickly.”

Medicines on the Cancer Drugs Fund in England are also usually made available to patients in Wales and Northern Ireland. Decisions over which drugs should be funded by the NHS in Scotland are made separately by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.

Moore, K et al. (2018) Maintenance Olaparib in Patients with Newly Diagnosed Advanced Ovarian Cancer. N Engl J Med DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1810858