The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of Nivolumab – used to treat rare forms of gastroesophageal cancer – which will serve around 3,000 eligible people in the UK.
Nivolumab, also known as Opdivo, is a targeted immunotherapy designed to recognize and bind to a specific protein that can shut down the body’s immune system. Clinical evidence shows that by blocking this action, 8 percent of people achieve long-term remission compared to 4 percent today.
Gastroesophageal cancer includes tumors found anywhere in the esophagus, sometimes called the esophagus or food pipe, stomach, and where the esophagus meets the stomach. Currently, the most common treatments are surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
A clinical trial conducted by Bristol Myers Squibb – the company behind the drug – has shown promising results among patients, studying 1,581 cases of previously untreated advanced gastric cancer, gastroesophageal junction cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma.
Of these, 789 patients received a combination of Opdivo and chemotherapy, while 792 received chemotherapy alone. Overall, survival rates proved to be higher with the combination therapy: at one year, half of the patients tested with Opdivo and chemotherapy went nearly eight months without the cancer spreading, growing or getting worse compared with six months in those with only chemotherapy.
Helen Knight, acting director of drug evaluation at NICE, said: “The combination of nivolumab and chemotherapy not only has the potential to delay disease and prolong life for people with these forms of cancer, but there is also some long-term promise. remission.
“We know that there is a significant impact on the quality of life for people with these advanced forms of cancer, and so I am delighted that we are able to recommend this innovative treatment for people with these rare forms of gastroesophageal cancer.
“We are determined to bring innovative treatments like this into the hands of health and care professionals.”
With NICE approval, NHS National Cancer Director Professor Peter Johnson said: “Oesophageal cancer is one of the most difficult to diagnose and treat and this new life-extending drug, used with chemotherapy, will give hope to thousands of people with this disease. illness, allowing them to spend more time with their loved ones, enjoy a better quality of life and, in some cases, help them get rid of cancer.
“It is yet another example of the NHS using its commercial resources to deliver cutting-edge medicines, combined with our work to detect cancers earlier than ever, straight to the patients who need them – giving them the best chance of surviving their cancer.”