Catherine Priestley, Clinical Nurse Specialist - Secondary Breast Cancer
There has been a lot of media attention on cancer drugs lately. Whether it has been the criticism of the Cancer Drugs Fund, the success of the appeal to have the drug Kadcyla made available in Scotland or the concerns about price capping affecting the availability of cancer drugs on the NHS.
The route that new cancer drugs take to being made available to people is a confusing one and patients don’t always know what may and may not be available to them. Recently, we heard that the drug palbociclib (Ibrance) is being made available to suitable secondary (metastatic) breast cancer patients during a pause in its appraisal by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).
What is palbociclib?
Palbociclib is a targeted therapy and is suitable for patients with hormone receptor positive (receptors within the cell bind to the hormone oestrogen and stimulate the cancer to grow) and HER2 receptor negative (HER2 is a protein that can cause breast cancer to grow) secondary breast cancer. It’s taken alongside an aromatase inhibitor.
Who can have it?
At the moment the drug is only available as a first-line treatment. This means you will only be able to have it if you haven’t already had any other treatment for secondary breast cancer (like chemotherapy). If you are already taking an aromatase inhibitor you can check with your oncologist to see if it’s possible to add palbociclib to this, but it may depend on for how long you’ve been taking the aromatase inhibitor. If the drug is suitable for you, the funding for it should be in place for as long as it keeps the cancer under control.
Palbociclib’s appraisal by NICE for routine use in the NHS is still going ahead with an announcement due in the autumn, so we don’t know at the moment if and how it will be available in the future.
Commenting on the announcement, David Crosby, Director of Services and Engagement at Breast Cancer Care said:
We hear daily from women and men holding out hope for access to drugs that can give them irreplaceable time with loved ones. While this announcement is positive news from Pfizer it is only a short term fix.
The drug is available UK wide and we’d encourage anyone who thinks they meet the criteria to speak to their oncologist.
If you have questions about the availability of certain drugs or questions about secondary breast cancer you can call our Helpline on 0808 800 6000.