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NICE backs new drug for advanced melanoma

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has backed a new treatment to be made available on the NHS for advanced skin cancer.

NICE this week published final guidance recommending nivolumab (Opdivo) as monotherapy for treating adult patients with advanced (unresectable or metastatic) melanoma.

It is thought that the drug could benefit around 1,400 patients a year in England and Wales.

Nivolumab, manufactured by Bristol‑Myers Squibb, is a human monoclonal antibody (immunoglobulin G4) that blocks the programmed cell death‑1 receptor (PD‑1).

The receptor is part of the immune checkpoint pathway, and blocking its activity may promote an anti-tumour immune response.

The drug is administered intravenously over 60 minutes at a dose of 3mg/kg every two weeks.

In trials, the one-year survival rate was 73% for patients on nivolumab, compared to 42% for chemotherapy.

The most common adverse reactions – occurring in 15% or more of patients – with nivolumab in trials of advanced melanoma were fatigue, rash, itching, diarrhoea, and nausea.

The cost of nivolumab is £439 per 4ml (40mg) vial and £1,097 per 10 ml (100 mg) vial.

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