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The Institute of Cancer Research, London, welcomes the approval by NICE of the innovative targeted cancer treatment palbociclib for women with advanced breast cancer who have already received hormone therapy.
Women with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer whose disease has already spread, and who have received hormone therapy, will now be eligible for palbociclib on the NHS through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
Evidence from a major trial
NICE had previously approved the use of palbociclib for women with this breast cancer type, but only if they had not yet received hormone therapy.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust together led a major clinical trial – PALOMA-3 – which assessed palbociclib in combination with a hormone therapy, fulvestrant, in women with advanced breast cancer who had previously had a hormone therapy.
Increasing access to an innovative treatment
Hormone therapy is one of the most common first treatments for people with advanced breast cancer – so this new approval could significantly increase the number of women who can benefit from palbociclib on the NHS.
PALOMA-3 found that women taking palbociclib with hormone therapy lived seven months longer than those on hormone treatment alone. The findings from the PALOMA-3 trial are believed to have been a major factor in the new NICE recommendation.
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Extending survival with fewer side effects
Professor Nicholas Turner, Professor of Molecular Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, was one of the clinical experts on the NICE panel for the drug and led the PALOMA-3 trial. He said:
“Palbociclib belongs to an exciting new class of targeted cancer drug and represents one of the most important advances in breast cancer in the past two decades. It not only extends survival but does so with far fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
“It’s great news that palbociclib is now being made available for women with advanced breast cancer who have already had hormone therapy for their cancer, allowing many more patients to benefit from the treatment on the NHS.
“Our trial showed that palbociclib extended the lives of these women and delayed the need for chemotherapy, giving them a much better quality of life.”
Overcoming cancer drug resistance
Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:
“We warmly welcome the news that NICE has extended availability of palbociclib to more women with advanced breast cancer. Targeted treatments like palbociclib are a lifeline for people with advanced cancer. An innovative drug like this can ensure a patient is able to live well, for much longer with their disease.
“Cancer can, however, adapt to treatment and evolve resistance, and this is the biggest challenge we face today as we seek to cure more patients. So it is essential that we keep working not only to find more game-changing drugs like palbociclib, but also to discover ways of combining them with other treatments to keep cancer at bay for much longer.
“Our aim is to turn cancer into a disease which can be controlled in the long term, and wherever possible cured.”
Making a real difference to quality of life
Christine O’Connell, 47, from south west London, has been treated with palbociclib and hormone therapy for advanced breast cancer for more than a year and a half. She said:
“I was really lucky that palbociclib was available to me when I needed it. I’m now on my 21st cycle of treatment – and not only is my cancer stable, but the side effects are so much easier to manage than when I had chemotherapy.
“Having access to a targeted drug makes a real difference to your quality of life, and I’m really pleased that more people will now be able to benefit from it. I hope that continuing with palbociclib and hormone therapy will keep my cancer in check long enough for the next developments in treatment for advanced breast cancer.”