Amidst the excitement over new immunotherapy trials, this morning we were also disappointed to learned that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has made a preliminary decision not to recommend olaparib – a drug that can help women with a form of ovarian cancer – for use on the NHS in England.

Here, Professor Steve Jackson – University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK Professor of Biology, whose Cancer Research UK-funded academic research provided the basis for the drug’s development – shares his thoughts on the decision.

Professor Steve Jackson

Professor Steve Jackson

I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the news that olaparib is likely to be turned down by NICE.  First and foremost, I’m sad because the drug is being denied to many patients in England who could benefit from it.

But I also find the news devastating from a personal standpoint.  Through many years of Cancer Research UK-funded research, I founded, and then scientifically led, the small English biotechnology company, KuDOS, which developed olaparib.

The drug was finally brought to market after 10 years of blood, toil, tears and sweat from my scientific colleagues, alongside innumerable doctors and clinical trial participants, many based here in the UK.

So while I will not receive any financial benefit from olaparib sales, I feel very frustrated that our efforts to help people affected by cancer are being held up in this way.

It is also worth pointing out that olaparib has been developed through huge investment by AstraZeneca, a company with a strong presence in Britain and which employs a large number of British employees.

It’s particularly saddening to learn that, unlike patients in many other countries worldwide who already have, or will soon have access to olaparib, this drug is likely to be denied to patients in England.

I hope that this interim decision will be reversed during the consultation period over the ensuing months, and that a drug that so many of us have sought to bring to patients will eventually be available to those that could benefit.

And I hope that ongoing discussions to reform the system through which such decisions are made, come up with a better way to get effective drugs to the patients who urgently need them.

  • A final NICE decision is expected in September 2015