Head and Neck Cancer Drug 'Game Changer - Dream Health

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Saturday 23 April 2016

Head and Neck Cancer Drug 'Game Changer

New Cancer Drug – A Game Changer for Head/Neck Cancer

According to experts, a new kind of cancer drug which arouses the immune system of a patient to fight the tumours could be a game change for dealing with aggressive head and neck cancers. Trials results from a US cancer conference recommend that the treatment seems to work better than the standard chemotherapy. Nivolumab tends to improve the survival chances of patients considerably with these hard-to-treat tumours. The same is already available on the NHS for those with advanced skin cancer.

However, experts are of the opinion that more research needs to be done before offering it regularly to patients with other cancers. One of the most exciting developments in the treatment of cancer for years is immunotherapy. Though it does not cure every cancer, rising evidence proposes that it can buy some very ill patients with some valuable time.

Presented at the American Association Centre Research, the phase-three trial of nivolumab recommends that the drug tends to extend the survival time by months even though the cancer seems to be aggressive and in the advanced stage. In the test, 240 patients suffering from head and neck cancer had been given nivolumab while another 121 were given standard chemotherapy.

Nivolumab – New Wave of Immunotherapies

After a period of one year, 36% of the patients treated with novolumab injections seemed to be still alive when compared with the 17% of those with chemotherapy. Prof Kevin Harrington, UK trial leader, from the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust mentioned the results were a `potential game changer’ for head and neck cancer, and introduced a new drug treatment in our armoury which at last is better than the standard chemotherapy.

Nivolumab is one of a new wave of immunotherapies which are beginning to have an impact across cancer treatment and which will provide greater promise in the future as we tend to understand how best to use them. He further adds that once it has relapsed or spread, head and neck cancer tends to be very difficult to treat with surgery and radiotherapy, often being impossible. So it is good news for patients that these interim results show that we now have a new treatment which works and can significantly extend life.

Needs Approval of NICE

Dr Emma King of Cancer Research UK has stated that `these results could have a significant impact for head and neck cancer patients who no longer respond to treatment. They also reinforce the important shift which is seen towards using immunotherapies for cancer treatment. However, the new trial is the first time it has revealed to work in head and neck cancer.

Before Nivolumab can be utilised regularly in treating head and neck cancer in the UK, it will need the approval by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence –NICE.Its manufacturer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, now intends to submit a licensing application to the European Medicines Agency for use for this cancer type. If approved, UK drugs rationing watchdog NICE would be making a decision whether to fund the £68,000 a year drug for the patients of NHS.

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