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Drug targets cancer spread to bone

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Thousands of cancer patients whose disease has spread to the bone could benefit from a new drug currently being approved for use on the NHS.

Denosumab (Xgeva) helps prevent bone complications in people whose cancer has spread from its original site.

These complications include bone fractures, spinal compression (when the spinal cord is compressed by the bone) and bone complications requiring radiotherapy or surgery. Symptoms include pain as well as weakening and eventual destruction of the bone.

New draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends the drug for certain groups of cancer patients whose disease has spread, most commonly the spine, pelvis, hip, upper leg bones and skull.

These patients include women with bone tumours from breast cancer, and men with painful bone disease spread caused by hormone-refractory prostate cancer for whom other treatments have failed. Other patients, who currently qualify for standard treatment with zoledronic acid, will also be able to receive the drug.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said: “Bone metastasis is associated with increased pain and skeletal-related events such as fractures and spinal cord compression.

“It can have a major impact on quality of life and we are therefore pleased to be able to recommend denosumab.”

The drug’s manufacturer, Amgen, estimates there are more than 150,000 patients in the UK with solid tumours and disease that has spread to the bone.

Breast and prostate cancer patients account for more than 80% of this group.

The cost of the drug is just over £4,000 per year but could be lower after Amgen negotiated a discount deal for the NHS.

The guidance is still subject to consultation.

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