New melanoma treatment to be free on NHS

Hundreds of patients with a type of aggressive skin cancer will be offered a targeted therapy on the NHS in England and Wales.

Approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the drug has been shown to improve the survival of people with stage III melanoma, with a particular mutation, leading to a number of health organisations to label the move as a ‘huge step forward’.

Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer, with approximately 15,400 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK. A gene mutation called BRAF is found in approximately half of cases, meaning cancer cells have spread into skin, lymph vessels or lymph glands close to the melanoma, but they haven't spread to more distant parts of the body.

The new drug, approved after a clinical trial of more than 800 patients found a lower risk of the cancer recurring in a group taking the therapy, is a combination of the drugs dabrafenib and trametinib which can be taken at home as five tablets a day.

Mirella Marlow, deputy director for the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “There are currently no adjuvant treatments available for people with stage III BRAF V600 mutation-positive melanoma, a disease which can cause severe and debilitating symptoms. We are therefore delighted that we were able to work with the company and NHS England to recommend dabrafenib plus trametinib as a new treatment option, marking an important development in the management of melanoma.”

Gill Nuttall, from charity Melanoma UK, said: "We are continuing to see an increase in the number of people in the UK with melanoma, especially among younger people. The availability of this treatment is a huge step forward for the hundreds of BRAF-positive patients who are currently left with very few options following surgery. The current 'watch and wait' approach is an extremely worrying and stressful time for patients and their families."

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