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Nice backs BMS’ combination immunotherapy Opdivo, Yervoy to treat skin cancer

Published on 17/06/16 at 09:50am

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has backed a combination of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s immunotherapy Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab) to treat skin cancer.

The drugs can stall progression of advanced (unresectable or metastatic) melanoma by an average of 8 months compared with standard treatment, the regulator said in a statement.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the Health Technology Evaluation Centre at NICE, said: “After one of the fastest drug appraisals Nice has carried out, these promising new immunotherapy treatments for advanced melanoma look set to significantly extend the life of people with the condition.

“The evidence we examined was very promising and I know further trials are ongoing which have also released encouraging data.”

Nivolumab and ipilimumab are part of an exciting new class of immunotherapy cancer treatments that disable the natural restrictions preventing the immune system fighting cancer cells.

About 1,300 people could be eligible for the drug combination each year, however doctors will need to be careful that patents are fit enough and willing to tolerate its often significant side effects such as diarrhoea and liver damage.

Life expectancy for those with advanced skin cancer is currently under two years. Melanoma accounted for around 1,750 deaths in 2012 in England, and 12,200 people were diagnosed in 2013.

In February Nice recommended Opdivo for advanced melanoma. The regulator has also recommended Yervoy as a possible treatment option for adults with advanced melanoma. In addition, Nice recommends Merck’s Keytruda for advanced melanoma used before and after prior treatment with Yervoy.

Anjali Shukla

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