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Drug developers welcome NICE guidance on abiraterone


Wednesday 16 May 2012


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust have welcomed the publication of guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending that patients with advanced prostate cancer receive abiraterone acetate on the NHS.


Abiraterone acetate, from Janssen-Cilag International under the trade name Zytiga, is a new type of treatment for prostate cancer that works by blocking the synthesis of testosterone in all tissues including the tumour itself, not just the testes. This testosterone would otherwise continue to fuel prostate cancer growth and spread.


Abiraterone was discovered at the ICR in what is now the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit and further developed at the ICR and The Royal Marsden*. Professor Johann de Bono, from the ICR and The Royal Marsden, led the pivotal phase III clinical trial that lead to NICE’s decision today.  These trials showed that abiraterone could extend life for men with advanced prostate cancer, who had already had chemotherapy, by more than three months and improve their quality of life.  


Professor Johann de Bono from The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, who led the pivotal trials of abiraterone, said:


"I'm thrilled that this drug will now be routinely available for eligible patients on the NHS. Abiraterone acetate is one of only a handful of life-extending drugs for these men in the UK and, importantly, it can also improve quality of life. Some of my patients have been taking abiraterone for several years through a clinical trial and are still pain free."


Professor Alan Ashworth, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said:


“We are delighted by today’s decision to allow patients with advanced prostate cancer to receive abiraterone on the NHS. This drug was discovered at The Institute of Cancer Research and is a real UK success story. It is the result of more than two decades of dedicated work by The Institute of Cancer Research, The Royal Marsden and our collaborators. We are proud that a drug we discovered will now be available to help many more men than before. This success highlights the important role that not-for-profit organisations can make in drug discovery and development.”


Cally Palmer, Chief Executive, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said:


“The development of abiraterone by The Royal Marsden and the ICR highlights the national importance of funding pioneering cancer research. We are delighted our patients at The Royal Marsden were among the first to benefit from the very latest in drug development and are pleased that patients across the country will now also benefit from our work.”




Media Contact: Miranda Watson, ICR press office, tel: 020 7153 5430


Notes to Editors:

* Abiraterone was discovered at the ICR in research supported by grants from Cancer Research Campaign (now Cancer Research UK), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and BTG International LTD. Subsequent patient trials and further research on abiraterone was supported by Cougar Biotechnology Inc./Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, Cancer Research UK, Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre,  the MRC, BTG International Ltd, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Prostate Cancer Research Foundation, Prostate Cancer Charity, the ICR and The Royal Marsden. Cancer Research Technology assigned abiraterone acetate to BTG International Ltd, who in turn licensed it to Cougar Biotechnology Inc., now a member of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes.

Scientists and clinicians at the ICR are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients’ lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden Hospital and ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.

The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment.

As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.

The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer.

For more information visit


The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education. Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe treating over 44,000 patients every year.  It is a centre of excellence with an international reputation for groundbreaking research and pioneering the very latest in cancer treatments and technologies. The Royal Marsden also provides community services in the London boroughs of Sutton and Merton and in June 2010, along with the ICR, the Trust launched a new academic partnership with Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex.  Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, has helped raise over £50 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres, and drug development units. Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital. For more information, visit

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