Kidney cancer drug approved for NHS use in England

Sallyann AllenbyImage copyright
Sallyann Allenby

Image caption

Sallyann says the new drug is another option to treat her kidney cancer

A drug which could prolong life for people with advanced kidney cancer has been approved for use on the NHS in England and Wales.

Cabozantinib has the potential to switch off tumours in some patients and could give them many months of good-quality life, doctors said.

Kidney cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the UK with around 12,000 new cases every year.

The drug has already been approved for use in Scotland.

A charity, Kidney Research UK, said treatment options for kidney cancer were limited and the newly-approved drug would offer patients “more hope and more time with their loved ones”.

‘Another hope’

Sallyann Allenby, 61, from Surrey is being treated for renal cell carcinoma – the most common type of kidney cancer – at Guy’s Hospital in London.

She had a kidney removed in 2013 after finding blood in her urine on holiday and then collapsing on the flight home.

Sallyann has tried several different treatments, one of which gave her unpleasant side-effects, and she has also participated in a clinical trial which did not work for her.

In July, she began another new treatment and said cabozantinib gave her another option.

“This is really another hope for people like me, it’s something else to look forward to…

“It’s bad enough having the cancer, but if you know there’s something else you can try then that keeps you going.

“I’ve got two lovely granddaughters. I want to be around for a while yet.”

Silencing tumours

In trials, the drug was shown to be useful in patients whose kidney cancer had spread around the body and had become resistant to other treatments.

The way cabozantinib works means it can target molecules on drug-resistant cancer cells, stopping the tumours or at least silencing them for a while.

It works very differently to chemotherapy drugs and also immunotherapy drugs such as nivolumab, which is approved to treat advanced kidney cancer on the NHS.

Nivolumab harnesses the power of the patient’s own immune system to destroy their cancer cells.

Symptoms of kidney cancer can include blood in the urine, persistent pain in the side of the body just below the ribs and a lump or swelling in the kidney area.

The cancer usually affects adults in their 60s or 70s and is rare in people under 50.

If it’s caught early, kidney cancer can often be cured but a delay in diagnosis means a cure is less likely.

A spokesman from Kidney Research UK said: “We are pleased to see cabozantinib has been approved by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, offering patients with renal cell carcinoma an increased chance of improved progression-free survival, compared to the standard therapy.”

Kidney cancer drug approved for NHS use in England

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