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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) today issued a Final Appraisal Determination (FAD) recommending the use of Erbitux (cetuximab) in combination with radiotherapy for the treatment of locally advanced head and neck cancer in patients that are contraindicated to all forms of platinum based chemoradiotherapy.
This announcement signifies a step forward for patients with head and neck cancer in England and Wales as they will soon have access to this potentially life saving treatment. Once the full guidance has been published, expected on 29 May 2008, it will be fully implemented across the NHS within three months.
Cetuximab is the only targeted therapy to be approved for the treatment of locally advanced head and neck cancer in combination with radiation therapy. Cetuximab is one of the first new treatments in over 40 years that significantly prolongs patient’s survival and control of the disease.
“The FAD is a positive step as it will ensure NHS access to cetuximab across the UK. Cetuximab has been recommended for use in Scotland since 2006,” said Denise Richard, Head of Oncology Business Unit at Merck Serono.
“As a clinician treating head and neck cancer, I welcome NICE’s decision of offering cetuximab to selected patients who are having radiotherapy as it improves the chance of tumour control without adding to the risk of troublesome radiotherapy-related side effects,” said Dr Nicholas Slevin, Consultant in Oncology, Christie Hospital, Manchester.
“The Mouth Cancer Foundation welcomes NICE’s decision. It is something that oncologists and patients alike have been fighting for. It will go a long way to correcting the present post code lottery in head and neck cancer for patients in the UK,” said Dr Vinod Joshi, Founder of the Mouth Cancer Foundation.
More than 7,800 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer in the UK every year, the majority of which occur in the mouth, pharynx or tongue.