Beating bowel cancer together

NICE approves new combination treatment for advanced bowel cancer patients

Friday 20 November 2020

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have approved the use of a new treatment that increases overall survival for advanced bowel cancer patients with the BRAF V600E mutation. The treatment also increased the number of people whose cancer had shrunk than standard therapy in these patients.

NICE’s recommendation is based on data that has come from the pivotal clinical trial called the BEACON trial. The BEACON trial is a clinical trial that investigated the new combination therapy to see how safe and how well it worked compared to what is currently available to certain advanced bowel cancer patients.

Researchers found that this therapy can increase the life expectancy of this group of patients from around 5.9 to 9.3 months, compared to the current standard treatment.

We are really pleased with the new recommendations as people who have this form of bowel cancer currently have extremely limited treatment options. They also generally have worse outcomes when treated with standard chemotherapy.

What is the new treatment?

The new treatment is a combination of two drugs – encorafenib (BRAFTOVI®) and cetuximab (Erbitux®). It is a type of targeted therapy.

A targeted therapy helps your body control the way cancer cells grow. There are different types of targeted treatment that destroy cancer in different ways. Targeted therapy can be used on its own or with chemotherapy.

Who is the treatment for?

This therapy is for the treatment of people with a form of advanced bowel cancer who have the BRAF V600E mutation.

Advanced bowel cancer is cancer that has spread from the bowel to other parts of the body. You may also hear it being called secondary, metastatic or stage 4 bowel cancer.

Some people with advanced bowel cancer have changes (mutations) in sections of their DNA called genes. If they have a mutation in a gene called BRAF, it’s called mutated BRAF. The most common mutation in the BRAF gene is called BRAF V600E.

Approximately one in ten people diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer have a BRAF V600E mutation, and their treatment options are currently limited.

We worked closely with clinicians to submit evidence to the NICE consultation on the benefits of the combined therapy, and are really pleased that today’s announcement offers new hope to patients.

The drugs should be available within three months on the NHS in England and Wales.

We continue to campaign to improve access to treatment and quality of life for those diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer.

Around 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed at the latest stage of the disease each year. People with advanced bowel cancer typically have poorer survival rates but access to surgery and drugs can help to extend life.

Sadly, fewer than one in ten of those diagnosed at the latest stage of bowel cancer survive, compared with nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage.

There is also a lack of access to the right treatment and care. The current ‘one-size fits all’ approach to care for those diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer is not working and needs to change to improve survival rates. Many patients are not being referred for life-saving surgery or struggle to get access to drugs that have been shown to be effective. This includes access to liver and lung specialists.

A personalised approach to treatment and care to ensure advanced bowel cancer patients have access to the full range of treatment that is right for them is essential – from access to genetic testing at diagnosis and specialist surgery through to ongoing treatment, care and support.

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