A new oral therapy for prostate cancer, abiraterone acetate (Zytiga), has been approved by the European Commission, after an accelerated review by the European Medicines Agency.
In April this year abiraterone was fast-tracked for FDA-approval for use in the United States. Yet despite the fact that the drug was invented by British scientists it has not been sanctioned for use in the UK. However, following public calls from a number of leading prostate cancer specialists – notably Consultant Urologist Professor Roger Kirby – the new life-extending prostate cancer pills have now been ratified for use across Europe, and are expected be passed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK shortly.
This is very good news – abiraterone will offer an extended lifeline for many prostate cancer sufferers. Whilst it is imperative that new drugs are not rushed through regulatory processes without due diligence, it is equally important that the prospects of British prostate cancer patients are not held hostage to needless bureaucracy. We hope abiraterone will be available in the UK in the not too distant future.
Patients with late-stage prostate cancer have until recently had few treatment options, but the therapeutic landscape has changed markedly in the last couple of years with a range of treatment options including abiraterone and alpharadin – another new drug that has recently been clinically-proven to improve prostate cancer survival rates. Alpharadin is currently under review by the FDA and is anticipated in the UK in the near future.
The UK offers some of the best treatment capabilities in the world. However, it is the responsibility of the NHS and private health clinics to ensure that this remains the case. With Britain’s continued investment into cancer research, together with the sterling work done by the prostate charities, the UK will continue to offer patients ever-improving prospects for cancer survival.
Abiraterone is the first oral drug that inhibits androgen production, blocking the synthesis of testosterone at 3 different sources of the hormones – the testes, adrenal glands, and the tumour tissue itself. It works by inhibiting the CYP17 enzyme complex, which is involved in the production of androgens.