NICE recommends new targeted lung cancer treatment

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new treatment for a type of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has been made available on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the UK's healthcare guidance body, today recommended erlotinib (Tarceva) as an option for those with NSCLC whose cancer is caused by mutations in a gene called EFGR, and which has spread to the lymph nodes or further round the body.

Director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, Professor Carole Longson, said of the draft: "NICE has already recommended a drug called gefitinib for the first-line treatment of EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC, which is now the treatment that most patients receive."

She added that at the moment, there is no available trial data to compare gefitinib and erlotinib directly, but clinical specialists told the committee that the medication is similar, and has the same effect.

"We are pleased to be able to recommend another treatment option for this stage of the disease," she added.

James Peach, director of Cancer Research UK's Stratified Medicines Programme, welcomed the news, but warned that the NHS needed to focus on making sure gene tests were available for the drug.

"This is great news for patients who have the form of lung cancer that this drug targets. Erlotinib is one of several new drugs developed to treat tumours that carry a fault in the EGFR gene, which our researchers first linked to cancer in 1984.

"While it isn't a cure, erlotinib can allow patients to spend precious extra time with their families. But to use this new generation of drugs effectively, we need a properly organised way of delivering gene tests in the NHS, so that these treatments can be given to all suitable patients - and we're working with the NHS to make this happen through our Stratified Medicines Programme."

Copyright Press Association 2012