NICE backs funding for AZ's Lynparza ovarian cancer maintenance therapy

A drug that could delay progression of ovarian cancer for three years has been approved for use on the NHS for newly-diagnosed patients in England.

Olaparib - also known as Lynparza - is being made available through the charity Cancer Drugs Fund to help women with a genetic form of ovarian cancer, which is notoriously extremely hard to treat.

Watch Nick Ferrari's interview with a specialist who says an ovarian cancer drug that has recently been approved for use could offer "a huge quality of life improvement" for patients.

It's previously been used for patients with advanced stages of the cancer, who also hold the BRCA genes (these increase the risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer).

In a statement to the BBC, the Department of Health said it was their policy that patients in Northern Ireland "will have the same access to NICE-approved drugs as their counterparts in other United Kingdom regions".

However, Cary Wakefield, chief executive of charity Ovarian Cancer Action, said the decision showed the need to ensure all patients with ovarian cancer receive genetic testing, with 29 per cent of cases missing out.

The estimate is that Lynparza delays disease progression by around three years compared with placebo, but overall survival data is not now available because those on the trial have not been followed up for long enough.

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NICE in 2016 recommended Lynparza in the later stages of ovarian cancer, if they had three or more courses of platinum chemotherapy.

Dr Miles explained that with the drug the difference for ovarian cancer patients "is going to be massive" because "this is not chemotherapy, this is a novel agent, this is a maintenance agent".

"Providing the latest cutting-edge treatments for patients through innovative drug deals is just one way the NHS Long Term Plan will transform cancer care across the country, building on the thousands more lives already being saved thanks to improving treatment".

Lynparza is a poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor that works by preventing this protein in cancer cells from repairing damaged DNA in patients with BRCA mutations.

A commercial arrangement was made between NHS England and AstraZeneca on the price of the drug.

"It's essential that the NHS should now test all women with the most common form of ovarian cancer for BRCA gene mutations at diagnosis, to ensure as many as possible can benefit from this new treatment".

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