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ICR responds to NICE approval of new breakthrough drugs on the NHS for women with advanced breast cancer

Red breast cancer cells

 Red breast cancer cells. Credit: Julia Sero.

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, welcomes the approval by NICE of a new type of treatment for women with previously untreated advanced breast cancer.

Palbociclib and ribociclib, two new drugs approved today for use on the NHS, belong to the same brand new class of cancer treatment – meaning they work in a very similar way.

Women with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer who were diagnosed after the disease had begun to spread will be eligible for palbociclib. Women who meet these criteria, and who have undergone the menopause, will be eligible for ribociclib. Both drugs will be used in combination with an aromatase inhibitor.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust together led the major PALOMA-3 trial clinical trial of palbociclib, which assessed it in combination with a hormone therapy, fulvestrant, in women with advanced breast cancer.

Important breakthrough

Professor Nicholas Turner, Professor of Molecular Oncology at the ICR, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, was one of the clinical experts on the NICE panels for both drugs and led the PALOMA-3 trial. He said:

“The development of this brand new class of cancer drug is one of the most important breakthroughs for women with advanced breast cancer in the last two decades.

“In clinical trials, palbociclib and ribociclib have made a huge difference to women’s lives – slowing down tumour growth for nearly a year, and delaying the need for chemotherapy with all its potentially debilitating side-effects. These drugs have allowed women to live a normal life for longer.

“I’m delighted that NICE and the manufacturers have managed to come to an agreement over the price and economic modelling of palbociclib and ribociclib, so that many more women can access this much-needed new type of treatment on the NHS.”

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Innovative combination treatment

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the ICR, said:

“It’s great news that this innovative new type of cancer treatment has been approved for use on the NHS. These two new drugs target weaknesses in cancer cells specifically, and so have far fewer side-effects than conventional chemotherapy.

“Using them alongside an aromatase inhibitor gives us just the sort of innovative combination treatment that we need more of, and I’m pleased that the ICR played a part in the development of one of the new drugs, palbociclib.

“It’s frustrating that the approval of palbociclib on the NHS was such a long, drawn-out process, even if on this occasion the manufacturer made the drug available for free in the meantime.

“We need NICE to work together with industry on a new process for evaluation where companies are encouraged to come forward with their best price much earlier in discussions. The current system is taking too long and prices still remain high.”


Nicholas Turner breast cancer NICE Palbociclib ribociclib statement
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