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NICE recommends soft tissue cancer drug

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended the use of Yondelis (trabectedin) for advanced soft tissue sarcoma

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended the use of Yondelis (trabectedin) on the NHS for the treatment of advanced soft tissue sarcoma.

The recommendation comes after previous draft guidance from NICE in 2009 which did not recommend Yondelis due to its high cost. However, the drug's manufacturer, Spanish-based advanced cancer treatment specialists PharmaMar, has offered to cover further costs for any patient who needs it beyond five treatment cycles, under the Patient Access Scheme.

Pharmaceutical companies can use NICE's Patient Access Schemes to propose ways of enabling patients access to high costs drugs.

"This improves the overall cost-effectiveness of the drug to the NHS allowing NICE to recommend the drug," said NICE in a statement.

The decision could benefit up to 600 people in England and Wales who live with advanced soft tissue sarcoma, a form of cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.

Yondelis, which works by attacking the DNA in cancer cells to stop growth and spreading, would be the first new treatment for this group of rare cancers for more than 25 years. Current treatments, including traditional chemotherapies, achieve a poor response in advanced forms of the disease and survival rates remain low.

Dr Carole Longson, health technology evaluation centre director at NICE said: "Being able to recommend trabectedin for use on the NHS represents a step forward in the care of this group of patients who may have very few treatment options left."

The final NICE guidance recommends Yondelis as a treatment for people with advanced soft tissue sarcoma if treatment with anthracylines and ifosfamide has failed or if they are intolerant of or have contraindications to the drugs.

25th February 2010

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