‘Quantum leap’ in fight against ovarian cancer: Experts hail biggest improvement in treatment for 30 years as drug that can halt the disease for 12 months gets approval
- Drug niraparib was approved for use by regulators in ‘quantum leap’
- Target Ovarian Cancer, a UK charity, described treatment as a ‘major milestone’
- Targeted treatments are rare in ovarian cancer and just a handful are approved
Experts have hailed a ‘quantum leap’ for women with ovarian cancer as a breakthrough treatment was given the go-ahead yesterday.
The drug niraparib was approved for use by regulators in the biggest improvement in 30 years for ovarian cancer treatment.
Niraparib can halt the disease for around 12 months, putting off the need for further chemotherapy and allowing women to have the best quality of life possible. It will be available for women with advanced ovarian cancer from their first round of treatment, meaning around 3,000 patients will have access to it every year.
Target Ovarian Cancer, a UK charity, described the treatment as a ‘major milestone’ in the fight against the disease.
Experts have hailed a ‘quantum leap’ for women with ovarian cancer as a breakthrough treatment was given the go-ahead yesterday (Stock image)
Targeted treatments – so-called because they exploit specific weaknesses in cancer cells – such as niraparib are rare in ovarian cancer and just a handful have been approved for use on the NHS.
These treatments have previously been available only to women who have mutations on specific genes – approximately 13 per cent of all those diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And only patients whose cancer had returned were administered it. However, niraparib – which stops cancer cells from repairing themselves – will be available to all patients who are newly diagnosed with stage three or four ovarian cancer.
This type of cancer is one of the most deadly and 11 women die every day from the disease.
Two-thirds are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread, making it harder to treat and likely to return. Experts said niraparib, which is taken as a daily pill, is significant because it could help ovarian cancer patients, who have limited treatment options, survive for longer. Research showed it significantly extended the time it took for the disease to return.
Annwen Jones of Target Ovarian Cancer said its approval is a ‘major milestone in the fight against ovarian cancer, bringing hope during a pandemic where we have concerns about how many women are being diagnosed late.’
He added: ‘We haven’t had such a breakthrough drug available to so many since the introduction of chemotherapy drug paclitaxel –Taxol – in the 1990s.’
Meanwhile, Cary Wakefield of Ovarian Cancer Action said the news marks a ‘quantum leap for women with advanced ovarian cancer’. She added: ‘Up until now, treatment options have sadly been extremely limited. Personalised medicine is now available to thousands of women and this will be life-changing.’
The approval, given yesterday by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), will also be replicated in Wales and Northern Ireland.
A verdict on the drug in Scotland is expected later this year.
Professor Jonathan Ledermann, director of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘The decision marks a turning point in advanced ovarian cancer treatment.’