New Skin Cancer Drug Available On NHS Which Almost Doubles Survival Rates Compared To Chemotherapy

A drug found to almost double survival rates for skin cancer patients has been approved on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended for the use of nivolumab (also called Opdivo), the Press Association reports.

The drug, which stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer cells, has been found to help patients survive much longer than patients given conventional chemotherapy.

Research has found that the one-year survival rate was 73% for those on nivolumab compared to 42% for chemotherapy.

Professor Carole Longson from Nice said: "We are pleased to be able to recommend nivolumab for treating advanced skin cancer in final draft guidance.

"In 2011, over 13,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma in the UK, and it accounts for more deaths than all other skin cancers combined. I am sure this will be welcome news to patients and healthcare professionals alike."

Nivolumab works by targeting and blocking a protein called PD-1 on the surface of certain immune cells called T-cells. Blocking PD-1 activates T-cells to find and kill cancer cells.

Nice has previously rejected the drug for patients with advanced lung cancer.

According to the Press Association, this is despite the fact that previous research found nivolumab had the potential to prolong life.

Patients with non-small cell lung cancer treated with nivolumab lived an average of 12.2 months, while patients treated with a chemotherapy drug lived an average of 9.4 months.

Commenting on the latest update, Johanna Mercier, general manager of Bristol-Myers Squibb in the UK, which makes the drug, said: "We welcome today's decision from Nice, which is positive news for melanoma patients in the UK.

"However, we are mindful that lung cancer patients continue to await a final decision on this medicine.

"Recently, Nice issued draft guidance, which does not recommend nivolumab in advanced lung cancer. Its final guidance for these patients will be issued in May 2016."

Fair skin, especially with red or fair hair

Skin cancer risk factors