Ovarian cancer drug wins NICE approval

In collaboration with the Press Association

NICE has given the NHS the green light over a drug which can extend the lives of ovarian cancer patients.

"We look forward to further good news on olaparib in the future, with clinical trials showing it also has potential in other types of cancer" - Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK

Olaparib is particularly effective in cancers that bear specific genetic faults, and the drug has previously been rejected for routine use by the health service’s drugs rationing body.

Cancer Research UK scientists took a leading role in the drug’s development, and trials have shown olaparib extends lives by an average of seven months compared to standard treatments. 

Friday’s landmark decision will make the drug available to women who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations in their tumours, and have responded to three rounds of platinum-based chemotherapy. 

The initial rounds of treatment will be covered by the NHS, but women who remain on treatment after 15 months will then have the drug paid for by the manufacturer.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said he was “delighted” by the news. 

“Cancer Research UK scientists played a pivotal role in discovering and developing olaparib and it is great news that the drug will now offer new hope to some women with advanced disease. We look forward to further good news on olaparib in the future, with clinical trials showing it also has potential in other types of cancer.”

Professor Steve Jackson, University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK Professor of Biology, who played a leading role in developing olaparib, also welcomed the decision.

"It is wonderful to learn that olaparib, a drug that was developed as a result of British science and innovation, is finally being made available through the NHS to certain ovarian cancer patients," he said.

"Times like this, when a new medicine becomes available, are important - most of all for the patients themselves, but also for everyone involved in cancer research, all the way from fundraisers to research scientists and clinicians."

"This news also increases my optimism about potential applications for olaparib in other cancers, as well as for the prospects of additional new anti-cancer medicines that are being developed through the joint efforts of charities, academic institutions and companies."

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