LIFESTYLE

Cervical Cancer Drug Avastin Receives The All Clear

06/03/2014 09:26 GMT | Updated 06/03/2014 09:59 GMT
KEY
ARCHIVE - Laboratory equipment is seen in a building of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche in Basel, Switzerland, pictured on September 22, 2006. - Swiss based Roche Holding AG, the world's biggest maker of cancer pharmaceuticals, rose its first half year profit 24 percent as doctors prescribed more of its Avastin and Herceptin tumor-fighting drugs, as the company reported on Thursday July 19, 2007 in Basel, Switzerland. Net income climbed to 4.92 billion Swiss francs (4.1 billion US dollars) from 3.97 billion francs a year earlier. Roche also announced the appointment of the head of its diagnostics unit, Severin Schwan, as new chief executive. (KEYSTONE/Martin Ruetschi)

Women with advanced cervical cancer may be given the chance to live longer after England became the first country in the world to make the drug Avastin available on the NHS.

Avastin (bevacizumab) is already on the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund list for advanced breast, bowel and ovarian cancer, but has now been added for cervical cancer.

This means women in the advanced stages of the disease could be given precious extra months of life if their cancer specialist agrees it could help them.

The drug has not yet received a licence for treating cervical cancer so is not routinely available in other countries, including the US. It has also not yet gone through the usual approval system by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and is on the rise. Around 2,900 women are diagnosed every year in the UK and the disease kills about 1,000 women annually.

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Evidence on the drug, which cuts the blood supply to tumours, shows women with advanced cervical cancer lived nearly four months extra on average if they took the drug with chemotherapy, compared to chemotherapy alone.

Professor Peter Clark, chairman of the chemotherapy clinical reference group at NHS England, said: "This new addition to the list demonstrates NHS England's commitment to achieving maximum benefit to patients from the £200 million Cancer Drugs Fund.

"The process of updating the list is led by cancer specialists, and should ensure that patients benefit quickly when new drugs become available that are backed by good evidence from trial data."

The Cancer Drugs Fund is a list of treatments approved for fast-track use on the NHS before they have gone through the usual regulatory or approval systems.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "The addition of bevacizumab to the Cancer Drugs Fund is very positive for women who receive a late stage diagnosis of cervical cancer.

"The prognosis can often be poor. When this is the case, any extra time that can be provided through new drugs becomes extremely valuable."