Leading oncologist Professor Tim Eisen has expressed concerns that patients with advanced kidney cancer could be condemned to toxic, barely effective, 20 year-old treatments because the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is likely to rule out using all four of the new treatments it has assessed.
Writing in the December issue of BJU International, Professor Eisen, from the University of Cambridge, points out that although NICE has put its findings out for consultation, its provisional decision is that sunitinib, sorafenib, temsirolimus and interferon plus bevacizumab are too costly.
A further review is due to be carried out in January 2009, but Professor Eisen fears that NICE - which advises the UK Department of Health - may confirm its provisional advice that none of these treatments should be provided by the UK's National Health Service.
"We had hoped that NICE would approve at least one of these drugs, as they represent a major breakthrough and there are no suitable alternatives for the large majority of the 4,000 or so patients who might be considered for these drugs in the UK" says Professor Eisen.
"Given that sunitinib was investigated as a first line option, it seemed most likely that it would be approved.
"Our hopes were dashed when NICE released its consultation document. It said that although the four drugs they looked at were clinically effective, they were not cost-effective."
Professor Eisen says that about one in ten patients benefit significantly from existing drugs to activate the immune system, leaving the other 90 per cent with no benefits, just a range of unpleasant side effects, including flu-like symptoms and depression.
He points out that a number of very effective treatments have been developed in the last three years, but he fears that when NICE issues its final recommendations next spring the hopes of UK clinicians and patients could be wel
|Contact: Annette Whibley|