New cervical cancer drug added to Cancer Drugs Fund

Five hundred women every year could benefit from a new drug which has been added to the Cancer Drugs Fund to treat advanced cervical cancer.

The drug bevacizumab (Avastin) is already used in the treatment of other cancers, however this is the first time it will be available on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) for advanced cervical cancer.

It is routinely available on the NHS in England before any other country in the world.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and its incidence has risen by approximately 15 per cent in the last decade in the UK with 2,900 women diagnosed in 2010.

NHS England’s Chemotherapy Clinical Reference Group (CRG) has made the medicine available after trials showed bevacizumab could extend the lives of women with advanced cervical cancer by nearly four months compared to chemotherapy alone.

The Chemotherapy CRG is working closely with clinicians and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry to ensure a rapid review process for new drugs that may be appropriate for inclusion on the Cancer Drugs Fund list. The review process looks at the available evidence regarding a drug’s efficacy, plus data relating to its safety.

Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Chemotherapy CRG, said: “This new addition to the list demonstrates NHS England’s commitment to achieving maximum benefit to patients from the £200 million Cancer Drugs Fund. The process of updating the list is led by cancer specialists, and should ensure that patients benefit quickly when new drugs become available that are backed by good evidence from trial data.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “The addition of bevacizumabto the Cancer Drugs Fund is very positive as for women who receive a late stage diagnosis of cervical cancer, the prognosis can often be poor. When this is the case, any extra time that can be provided through new drugs becomes extremely valuable. We hope this will result in extended survival without impacting on quality of life for those facing non-curative treatment.”

The Cancer Drugs Fund provides an additional £200m each year to enable patients with cancer in England to access drugs that are not routinely funded by their local NHS. The national Cancer Drugs Fund list is a single national list of approved fast-track drugs giving uniform access to treatment across the country. From 1 April, NHS England took on responsibility for the operational management of the Cancer Drugs Fund, creating for the first time a single national system for deciding which drugs are available and for which conditions.