Use of breast cancer drugs rejected

Two drugs to treat breast cancer have been rejected for use on the NHS when combined with other therapies, according to new guidance out today.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) turned down Tyverb (lapatinib) and Herceptin (trastuzumab) when used in combination with an aromatase inhibitor (another type of breast cancer treatment).

The draft guidance, which is open to consultation, does not recommend the drugs are used in this way for treating a type of advanced breast cancer that is both hormone-receptor and HER2-positive.

Tyverb would cost around 28,000 per patient for a year of treatment in this setting while Herceptin would cost about 26,000.

Herceptin is approved on the NHS for other breast cancers.

Sir Andrew Dillon, Nice chief executive, said there was uncertain data on whether patients lived longer with the drugs.

"The evidence suggests that these drug combinations do not offer enough additional value to patients over and above currently available treatment to justify the high cost that the NHS would have to pay for them.

"Although trial data indicated that these treatment combinations could delay the growth and spread of the disease, an overall survival benefit was less certain.

"Also, patients who would be likely to receive lapatinib or trastuzumab in combination with an aromatase inhibitor are those in whom chemotherapy is not deemed suitable. However, we cannot say with certainty how many patients this would be."

Almost 46,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK and up to 80% have hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

This means that cancer cells depend on female hormones, including oestrogen, to grow.

These tumours can also sometimes be HER2-positive, which means that cells grow and divide more quickly and the cancer is more aggressive.

It also published final advice to the NHS on the use of Avastin (bevacizumab) for bowel cancer which has spread to other organs,

usually the liver and lungs.

It confirmed previous pieces of guidance rejecting the drug.

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