The U.K.’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved radium-223 to treat prostate cancer that has spread to the bones for routine National Health Service (NHS) use.
The approval comes in the wake of new information about how the effectiveness of radium-223 internal radiation therapy compares with treatments currently available for this type of prostate cancer, according to a news release.
NICE is a special health authority set up in 1999 to provide national guidance and advice for improved health and social care by reducing variations in the availability and quality of NHS treatments in the U.K.
NICE had previously recommended radium-223 — a mildly radioactive form of the metal radium which has an affinity for bone and targets tumors specifically in bone tissue — but only for patients who had received initial treatment with Taxotere (docetaxel). This meant that prostate cancer patients who had not received Taxotere could only access radium-223 through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). Only 601 prostate cancer patients in England had CDF access to radium-223 during 2014-2015.
A draft guidance for radium-223 dichloride for treating hormone-relapsed prostate cancer with bone metastases, titled “Prostate cancer (hormone relapsed, bone metastases) – radium-223 dichloride (review of TA376) [ID1007] – CDF rapid reconsideration process,” is currently in development (GID-TA10054]) by NICE, and is expected to be published in September.
The revised NICE recommendation will allow prostate cancer patients who have not received Taxotere to access radium-223 treatment through the NHS, and no longer need to access the CDF.
“I am pleased we have been able to broaden our recommendations for radium-223. Patients with prostate cancer will surely benefit from this drug being available for routine NHS use,” said Prof. Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE. “I hope we’ll see more drugs like this move into routine NHS use after companies have been able to better demonstrate cost-effectiveness.”
The new guidance is to be made final later this month, after which NHS organizations will have three months to comply with making funding available for routine treatment of metastatic prostate cancer patients with radium-223, which will be dosed by infusion into the bloodstream on a monthly basis for up to six months.
NICE notes that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the U.K., with one in eight men affected by the condition in their lifetime. Recent figures show that more than 47,000 men are diagnosed with the disease annually.