- The big news this week was the Budget – Chancellor George Osborne set out the government’s spending priorities for the forthcoming year. Here’s our reaction, plus a nice post from the Institute of Cancer Research looking at the implications for science funding.
- Shocking new figures reveal that nearly 570 children start smoking for the first time every single day, according to the Daily Telegraph. This is why our campaign for standardized packaging is so important – it’s giving kids one less reason to start smoking.
- The first invitations for a new form of bowel screening, known as Bowel Scope Screening, were sent out in England. This is great news as the test can both spot bowel cancer early and even prevent some people ever developing the disease, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Today, the Health Committee – a cross-party group of MPs appointed to scrutinise the Department of Health’s policies – published a report on its inquiry into NICE – the body that determines which treatments the NHS should pay for.
The Committee looked at how the drugs regulator works, ahead of the appointment of its new chair, Professor David Haslam.
Their final report makes a number of recommendations relevant to cancer patients, so here’s a detailed look at what it says, and what we think about it.
We’re delighted with today’s news that abiraterone will be available for men with advanced prostate cancer on the NHS in Scotland.
This is fantastic for Scottish men with the disease as it brings them in line with the rest of the UK, which has been able to access the drug since the NICE ruling back in May.
This is the second time the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) – which assesses whether drugs offer good value for money – has looked at the drug, having turned it down in March. The pharmaceutical company, Janssen, offered a better deal this time around, which enabled the SMC to say yes.
This is a great decision that we’re really pleased to see. But it has been too long in coming and raised important questions about how drugs are made available across the UK. As we have said before, we need the processes by which medicines are assessed to be streamlined so that patients are not left in limbo. And we need the regulators and pharmaceutical companies to work together to get the best outcome for patients.
Abiraterone is not a cure for prostate cancer, but it can give men with the disease precious extra months of life to spend with friends and family. We’re really proud of our involvement in developing the drug, and in telling NICE, the SMC and Janssen why we think they should work together to get it approved. It is a real success story when years of hard work in the lab turn into effective treatments for patients.
And we couldn’t do any of this without the generous funds from you – our supporters. Thank you.
This month, a new trial looks at the cancer-fighting properties of the curry chemical curcumin, while we take a look at the reasons why cancer deaths in middle age have fallen.
Plus, we hear why it’s important that the new prostate cancer drug abiraterone has been approved by NICE, and highlight a concerning study revealing poorer cancer survival in men with mental illness.
And finally, we bring you our highlights from the recent ASCO Conference in Chicago – the biggest cancer conference in the world.
Listen now through the player below:
Also, the podcast is available on iTunes to subscribe and download for free.
Alternatively, go to the podcast page on our website, where you can hear the show directly through our own Flash player and explore previous shows in the archive. And there’s also a full transcript of the podcast available here.
We hope you enjoy it – please do let us know what you think of the podcast in the comments below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So we hope you share our delight over this morning’s news, that NICE and pharma company Janssen have finally reached an agreement, and the drug will now be available to suitable men on the NHS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
NICE say they were able to reach their decision after Janssen gave them additional data about the number of men the drug will be suitable for, which men it will benefit most, and – crucially – offered the NHS a better deal on the drug’s price.
This is fantastic news.
All suitable men in these three countries will be now able to easily access the drug, which can dramatically improve quality of life, and offers men with advanced prostate cancer extra time with their families and friends.
But let’s be clear. Abiraterone was licensed in the EU in September 2011. It is now May 2012. In the eight months it took for the regulatory horse-trading to run its course, depending on where they live, some men with advanced prostate cancer in the UK have been able to get it easily, whereas others have had to get their doctors to apply for access on an individual basis.
On top of this, since the Scottish NHS has a separate system, until we hear the results of an appeal, Scottish doctors continue to have to jump through similar bureaucratic hoops to get the drug for their patients.
So our joy is tempered with yet more frustration that, despite recent political focus, the UK’s drug approval systems still aren’t working nearly as efficiently as they should.
And while the high cost of new drugs is a fundamental issue here, we also need reform, so that the UK’s cancer patients aren’t left stranded and without options available to their counterparts in other countries.
It was a week that started in Scotland, with the ‘no’ decision on prostate drug abiraterone, and went on to cover skin cancer, No Smoking Day, oral cancer, shisha pipes, prostate screening and cancer-munching blood cells.
In short, it was another hectic week in the world of cancer news.
Here’s our weekly round-up. We’re sticking with the Storify format for now, but please do keep sending us your comments and feedback…
In 2002, a paper appeared in top science journal, Nature, called “Mutations of the BRAF gene in human cancer”.
It described how scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre had made a breakthrough.
They’d discovered that a gene called BRAF was faulty in about seven out of 10 cases of melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer.
The researchers had also isolated a particular fault in the gene, which they dubbed V600E, which was responsible for about five out of 10 melanoma cases.
We’re extremely proud to have helped support this work, which you can read more about in Kat’s post from a couple of years ago. And over the years we helped support research to map out how this gene causes cancer, and how it might be targeted with drugs.
Today, a decade later, pharmaceutical giants Roche have launched a new drug called vemurafenib, or Zelboraf, in the UK. Building on the fundamental work of our researchers, the drug targets melanomas caused by the BRAF V600E mutation.
But while it’s always great to see new drugs emerge – particularly for conditions like advanced melanoma, which has seen little progress for decades – we need to temper this excitement with a few caveats.