Together we will beat cancer


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


Jackie Jones September 22, 2015

This is heartbreaking. My partner has genetic OC and BC. She has had 4 lots of chemo and remissions get shorter and shorter. This drug could give her a little longer. I contacted NICE but they say that the drug has not shown an improvement in overall survival since data won’t be available until 2017. Meanwhile, women will be left to die earlier because the drug is classed as too expensive. Women at the stage where they might NEED this drug have lost hope of longer term survival. Their only wish is that they may achieve longer ‘treatment free’ times. They DESERVE this after all they have already been through and with the knowledge that their time is now limited. It’s so wrong to deny the drug in the interim period between now and 2017. The Right To Die bill was also dismissed so…they don’t have the right to LIVE because they may cost too much and they don’t have the right to die, either. What a state of affairs whilst we fund obesity, drug and alcohol related problems, etc., which are self-inflicted. Shame on NICE.

Alexandra Rose June 2, 2015

So sad to read this news. It’s a-moral of NICE to do this. For those of us with OC to know there is a drug that may well help us, and to have it denied in this fashion is heart wrenching. I hope enough of a groundswell of opinion forces NICE to reverse this decision and if my voice can be added to this it certainly will be. Am sad too for all the scientists, experts and doctors who have worked on this to have this decision made.

Lesley Asque June 2, 2015

I sympathise fully with Professor Jackson, when I heard the news yesterday I thought about all the efforts that go into developing this drug and just to fall at the last hurdle. I think this is going to happen time after time with many new immunotherapy trials. We lag behind our European Partners in many aspects of cancer care and when we are in the forefront it doesn’t get the backing of the Government (or Funding) as it should do. If I can be of any help with any future campaign I will be glad to lend my cancer voice.

Dr Mills June 2, 2015

Professor Jackson must be gutted. All that hard worked to waste because Astra Zeneca (2015: profit $1.8bn / margin 30%) set the drug price too high!