Promising new ovarian cancer treatment could soon be available on the NHS

07 February 2018
pill niraparib

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued draft guidance on a promising new ovarian cancer drug, niraparib, advising that it is a suitable candidate for use in the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). 

Niraparib is an oral, once-daily PARP 1/2 inhibitor and prolongs ‘progression free survival’ –meaning the period of time where a woman is without disease is longer. The NICE committee recognised the urgent need for better ovarian cancer treatments and concluded that a new treatment that extends remission time and improves quality of life would be greatly valued by patients and their families. It is thought that up to 850 women in England and Wales could benefit from the drug becoming available on the NHS. 

“Niraparib is the first treatment of its class that can be used whether or not a woman has a BRCA mutation to be available in Europe. It represents a valuable new option in this challenging disease for many women,” said Dr. Rebecca Kristeleit at the UCL Cancer Institute. “The invitation for niraparib to be assessed for the CDF is an encouraging step forward […] and a chance for eligible UK women with relapsed disease to benefit from an effective targeted treatment for the first time in a decade.”

Clinical trials showed that for women with an inherited BRCA gene mutation, the time to relapse increased from 5.5 months to 21 months compared with chemotherapy alone. Niraparib was also shown to help women without a BRCA mutation, albeit to a lesser degree, more than doubling the length of time before recurrence (from 3.9 to 9.3 months). If you have recurrent ovarian cancer and are still sensitive to platinum chemotherapy, this treatment could be effective for you.   

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women and has the highest mortality rate of all gynaecological cancers. Five-year survival in England and Wales is also among the lowest in Europe – well below the European average. While these figures are bleak, it is exciting to think that niraparib could provide a much-needed new option for many women with the disease. 

 “We are pleased that the NICE committee has recognised the high unmet need in ovarian cancer treatment,” said Katherine Taylor, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action. “Every day matters for patients and their families and we hope that the CDF submission is successful and will deliver access to many women in England and Wales as soon as possible. We also look forward to a review by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) later this year.”

The assessment by the CDF will take place in due course to determine if and when this important medicine will be made available on the NHS. We will keep you posted on the outcome.

Learn more about our the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre and other projects we’re invested in.