Licence boost for skin cancer drug
A drug hailed as the first to prolong the lives of patients with deadly skin cancer is a step closer to being made widely available.
Yervoy (ipilimumab) has been awarded a European licence, meaning patients in the UK can access it, although it has not yet been approved for use on the NHS.
The drug is the first treatment since the 1970s for advanced melanoma in patients who have previously received another therapy.
Data from a clinical trial showed that 46% of patients treated with the drug were still alive after one year compared with 25% receiving another treatment.
Ipilimumab stimulates the body's own immune system to fight cancer and patients receive one infusion every three weeks for a total of four infusions.
The cost of the drug is around £18,000 per infusion, depending on the weight of the patient. Figures have shown the average cost per patient is £75,000.
Manufacturers Bristol-Myers Squibb has submitted data to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the hope of gaining approval for use on the NHS.
Malignant melanoma kills more than 2,000 people in the UK each year. More than 11,000 people annually develop the disease.
Dr Paul Lorigan, senior lecturer in medical oncology from the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, said: "The authorisation of ipilimumab represents a real advance in the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma as this is the first treatment for 30 years in the UK to extend patients' life expectancy.
"After years of no progress in the treatment of this terrible illness, we have now made a stride forward."