Prostate Centre views

New Life-Extending Cancer Pills Launched In UK

A new oral therapy for prostate cancer, abiraterone acetate (Zytiga), has been launched in the UK and is likely to become available on the NHS in the New Year if an accelerated review by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is favourable.

In April this year abiraterone was fast-tracked for FDA-approval for use in the United States, and earlier this month the drug was approved by the European Commission following public calls from a number of leading prostate cancer specialists – notably Consultant Urologist Professor Roger Kirby.

Professor Kirby, who has been involved in the development of national guidelines for prostate healthcare in the UK, believes this news reflects Britain’s improving prostate cancer treatment capabilities.

Dr Heather Payne, a consultant at The Prostate Centre, was involved in the clinical trials of abiraterone – comparing the drug with dummy pills. Dr Payne was interviewed by Sky News ( to discuss the drug and the hope that it offers to late-stage prostate cancer patients.

Dr Heather Payne said:

“The launch of abiraterone acetate is encouraging news for patients with metastatic advanced prostate cancer and their families. Historically there have been few treatment options for advanced prostate cancer when it relapses after hormonal therapy and chemotherapy and so this new treatment has the potential to meet a significant and previously unmet need. Abiraterone is a tablet that has been shown to be well tolerated. In a large clinical trial it was found that men taking abiraterone in combination with a steroid had an average increase in survival of around 5 months compared to those men taking a placebo (a dummy pill) plus a steroid. Some men also achieved significant improvements in pain.

“This is the latest in a range of new treatment options now available to men with progressive advanced prostate cancer such as new chemotherapy and immunotherapy techniques. In the last few years there has been significant progress made with continued investment into cancer research which bodes well for greater survival rates and a better quality of life for these men in the future.”

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is expected to decide in 2012 whether the drug will formally be made available on the NHS. Until then men can either pay for the drug privately, or apply for funding from the government’s Cancer Drugs Fund.

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