Once-a-day pill to treat ovarian cancer approved for use on NHS

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Game-changing targeted pill could help up to 850 women in England and Wales suffering from ovarian cancer after it was approved for use on the NHS through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Niraparib (Zejula; Tesaro) should be made available to adults with relapsed, high-grade serous epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer who have had two or more courses of platinum-based chemotherapy, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said in final draft guidance published on 1 June 2018.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women and can affect around 750,000 women every year. The UK has one of the highest rates of women affected in Europe but unfortunately has one of the lowest survival rates.

Recent clinical trial results showed that niraparib delayed cancer growth by around six to 15.5 months more than a placebo, depending on a woman’s genetic profile. However, the final results on overall survival have not been released so it is still unclear whether niraparib will increase women’s chances to live longer.

Niraparib is to be taken once-a-day and works by inhibiting two proteins involved in DNA repair to prevent cancer growth.

Meindert Boysen, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said: “The outcome for women with ovarian cancer is generally poor, with less than 35% surviving for five years after diagnosis.”

“We are pleased to see the inclusion of niraparib in the Cancer Drugs Fund as it will give women early access to this treatment while uncertainties in the clinical evidence can be addressed through the collection of additional data.”