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Opdivo launched in the UK for skin cancer

Published on 02/07/15 at 09:15am
Opdivo is one of a new class of cancer treatments

Bristol-Myers Squibb has launched its cancer immunotherapy treatment Opdivo in the UK for patients with advanced skin cancer.

Opdivo (nivolumab) is now available in the UK for adults with advanced, unresectable or metastatic melanoma, including people with and without mutations of the BRAF genes.

It is one of the first in a new class of medicines, called PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors, which work by harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

BMS earned approval from the EMA for Opdivo as an advanced skin cancer treatment in April, and as a lung cancer treatment for people with squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in May.

The launch comes just days after Opdivo was approved through the UK’s Early Access to Medicines Scheme by the MHRA – making it available to patients with NSCLC ahead of a marketing authorisation being granted. It was also approved by the MHRA through the scheme as a skin cancer treatment earlier in June.

Commenting on the announcement is Johanna Mercier, BMS UK and Ireland’s general manager, who says: “Bristol-Myers Squibb is committed to pioneering the field of immuno-oncology, and to translating this into better survival.

"We are therefore delighted that nivolumab is now available for UK patients as a licensed treatment and hope to be able to bring further advances in the treatment of this disease in the future.”

Professor John Wagstaff, consultant oncologist at South West Wales Cancer Institute and the Swansea College of Medicine, says: “The UK launch of nivolumab is a major milestone for the treatment of advanced melanoma and provides us with a new, effective option to help fight this cancer.

“Immunotherapies such as nivolumab are becoming a core part of our treatment armory and we are seeing more and more patients with significant survival improvement using these medicines.

"What is particularly encouraging is that, in some patients, this survival can extend to months or even years. Our hope for the future is to make this the case for more people as this field progresses.” 

Gill Nuttall from the charity Melanoma UK says: “There has been an alarming rise in the number of cases of melanoma in the UK over recent years. Sadly, this too often translates into people being diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease, which is a very difficult situation to manage. Today’s news is therefore very welcome as it provides more options for patients and the potential of better, longer survival.”

Lilian Anekwe

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