Up to 12,000 men dying from prostate cancer each year without access to key drugs
Up to 12,000 men are dying from prostate cancer in England each year because they are denied groundbreaking drugs on the NHS, charities warn.
Three charities have united with actor Stephen Fry, who survived the disease, to call for precision treatments Olaparib and Pluvicto to be made available.
Olaparib is the world’s first genetically targeted drug to be proven safe and effective for advanced prostate cancer for men with the BRCA 1/2 mutation.
It nearly doubled the time patients survived without their cancer spreading in comparison to those taking existing treatments and has been approved for use in Scotland.
Three charities have united with actor Stephen Fry, who survived prostate cancer, to call for precision treatments Olaparib and Pluvicto to be made available
Pluvicto is a targeted medicine that latches onto a protein called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), which is found in 80 to 90 per cent of advanced prostate cancers.
It works like a guided missile — tracking down cancer cells in the body and delivering a radioactive payload to destroy them.
Trial results suggest it can improve a patient’s quality of life, reduce the risk of progression and extend patients’ lives by an average of four months.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) rejected the use of Olaparib on the NHS for patients in England with advanced prostate cancer in September.
It is currently consulting on its provisional recommendation to reject the use of Pluvicto in men with advanced prostate cancer, with a final decision expected within weeks.
No precision medicines have yet been approved for NHS use in the deadliest form of the disease, although they are licensed for doctors to prescribe privately.
Olaparib is the world’s first genetically targeted drug to be proven safe and effective for advanced prostate cancer for men with the BRCA 1/ 2 mutation
Stephen Fry said: ‘I thought I was lucky when my cancer was caught early, as I had many options to choose from.
‘For so long men diagnosed with advanced disease have had few good options.
‘It is bitterly disappointing that we finally have two new promising treatments, which have been proven to work well even after everything else has failed, but they’re not being made available on the NHS.
‘For a country which has developed as many great things as this one, it makes no sense that we have an opportunity to help men live longer with fewer side effects of treatment and we aren’t taking it.
‘These drugs are already available for other cancers on the NHS. Why not for prostate cancer? Why are we leaving these men behind?’
Prostate Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK with one in eight men in the UK expected to be diagnosed with the illness in their lifetime.
The current outlook for advanced prostate cancer patients is poor, with few treatment options available.
Pluvicto is a targeted medicine that latches onto a protein called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), which is found in 80 to 90 per cent of advanced prostate cancers
The five-year survival rate for people with advanced prostate cancer is just 49 per cent, a figure that has not improved in 30 years.
Prostate Cancer Research, Prostate Cancer UK and Tackle Prostate Cancer said in a joint statement: ‘A prostate cancer diagnosis should not mean a death sentence for any man, but each year 12,000 men die from prostate cancer.
‘We work with men living with prostate cancer on a daily basis and we know how critical these new medicines are, offering hope of a longer and better quality of life when there are no other options left.
‘The UK government has made a strong and clear commitment to supporting the development of innovative precision medicines.
‘What we need now is an equally strong commitment to deliver these targeted therapies to the patients that need them.
‘PSMA scanning and genomic testing have value beyond the prescribing of personalised medicines as part of prostate cancer care.
‘If these personalised medicines were available they could help accelerate uptake and improve equity of access to these tests in the NHS.
Stephen Fry said: ‘I thought I was lucky when my cancer was caught early, as I had many options to choose from. For so long men diagnosed with advanced disease have had few good options’
‘Every day, 33 men in the UK lose their lives to prostate cancer. These new drugs could make all the difference, giving quality time back to these men and their families.’
A NICE spokesperson said: ‘Our independent appraisal committee carefully considered all the evidence put forward for olaparib to treat BRCA mutation-positive hormone-relapsed metastatic prostate cancer but had to make the difficult decision not to recommend it as the price offered could not be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources.
‘There is an option for NICE to look at the drug through its rapid review process, whereby olaparib could be reviewed again if the company wished to submit a revised price.
‘Alongside our colleagues at NHS England and other organisations we are always open to discussions on how we can ensure the NHS is able to offer people new treatments which balance the best care with value for money.’
The spokesman said Pluvicto has not been referred to the watchdog for appraisal, although its website suggests it has.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
How many people does it kill?
More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are killed by the disease in Britain, compared with about 11,400 women dying of breast cancer.
It means prostate cancer is behind only lung and bowel in terms of how many people it kills in Britain.
In the US, the disease kills 26,000 men each year.
Despite this, it receives less than half the research funding of breast cancer and treatments for the disease are trailing at least a decade behind.
How many men are diagnosed annually?
Every year, upwards of 52,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK – more than 140 every day.
How quickly does it develop?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs someone has it for many years, according to the NHS.
If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ or ‘active surveillance’ may be adopted.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated in the early stages.
But if it diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, then it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.
Thousands of men are put off seeking a diagnosis because of the known side effects from treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests and treatment
Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate tools only just beginning to emerge.
There is no national prostate screening programme as for years the tests have been too inaccurate.
Doctors struggle to distinguish between aggressive and less serious tumours, making it hard to decide on treatment.
Men over 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test which gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result are usually given a biopsy which is also not foolproof.
Scientists are unsure as to what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity and a lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone with any concerns can speak to Prostate Cancer UK’s specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org
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