NICE recommends new treatments for advanced melanoma

In collaboration with the Press Association

Two new treatments for advanced melanoma skin cancer have been recommended for use by NICE, the healthcare guidance body for England and Wales.

Final draft guidance documents have now been issued for both vemurafenib and ipilimumab. Manufacturers of the treatments have agreed to provide discounts.

Vemurafenib, which is also known as Zelboraf and is manufactured by Roche, has been recommended for the treatment of melanoma that has spread. And ipilimumab, marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb under the name Yervoy, is recommended for the treatment of advanced melanoma in people who have previously received chemotherapy.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "We're delighted that discounts on the price of these drugs mean that NICE has been able to approve vemurafenib and ipilimumab for routine use on the NHS.

"Although they are not cures, these treatments represent real signs of progress through our understanding of biology for people with advanced skin cancer - a disease where new treatments are long overdue."

The Health Technology Evaluation Centre director at NICE, Professor Carole Longson, said that without the introduction of new treatments, the prospects for patients with advanced melanoma are "very poor". Their quality of life is also likely to be affected by the condition, she added.

Vemurafenib and ipilimumab are the first new drug treatments for advanced melanoma for over a decade. Currently, the disease is managed with a chemotherapy drug called dacarbazine.

In respone to initial negative verdicts from NICE, the manufacturers of both treatments issued additional analysis. This, along with the discounts offered, meant that NICE was able to rule that the treatments represent a cost-effective use of NHS resources.

Cancer Research UK's Professor Johnson added: "This is a good example of NICE and the pharmaceutical companies working together to ensure that effective cancer treatments get from research to the patients who need them. We want to see responsible pricing from the outset so that patients are not left in limbo."

Professor Longson described the new drugs as "breakthrough treatments" for skin cancer and as such represent a major step forwards for patients.