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Pioneering cancer treatment that can increase remissions by two years approved on the NHS

Thousands of myeloma patients whose cancer has returned could benefit from a new treatment that can increase remission times by more than two years. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of daratumumab (Darzalex®) in combination with bortezomib (Velcade®), and dexamethasone (DVD) for the treatment of myeloma patients at first relapse in England.  

Around 3,000 patients could now benefit from the treatment each year on the NHS. 

Myeloma is an incurable blood cancer which affects 24,000 people in the UK.  

It is a relapsing-remitting cancer, meaning that although many patients will experience periods of remission following treatment, the disease will always return.  

Currently, only half of myeloma patients survive their disease for five years or more.  

And just around a third of myeloma patients survive for ten years or more.  

DVD was initially rolled out in 2019 after it was approved through the Cancer Drugs Fund - a pot of money which provides cancer patients in England with faster access to the most promising new drugs pending full approval from NICE.  

The treatment was up for review to decide whether it should be made permanently available to patients on the NHS.  

Dr Sophie Castell, chief executive at blood cancer charity Myeloma UK, said: “DVD has been a game-changer for myeloma patients and we’re delighted by NICE’s decision to make it permanently available to patients on the NHS. 

“Over the past four years, many patients have benefitted from DVD through the Cancer Drugs Fund with some really promising results. The combination has been shown to increase remission times by more than two years on average, giving patients whose cancer has sadly returned after their initial round of treatment a chance to enjoy more precious time with their loved ones. 

“We know that, over time, specific drugs stop working, so it is absolutely crucial to be constantly developing new treatment options to add yet more weapons to our armoury, so that people with myeloma can live a full life for as long as possible.” 

Around 5,800 people are diagnosed with myeloma in the UK each year.  

Patient Carmen Lester, from Surrey, who was diagnosed with myeloma in October 2014, welcomed the news. She said: “I can’t stop smiling.” 

“This brilliant new approved treatment combination means patients could hopefully live a better quality of life from the get-go,” added, Carmen, who was just 54 years old when her cancer was caught. “This combination is life-changing!” 

Daratumumab belongs to a group of drugs known as monoclonal antibodies and works by attaching to a protein present on the surface of myeloma cells. This flags the cell to the immune system and allows it to target and kill the myeloma cell.

Shelagh McKinlay, Director of Research and Advocacy at Myeloma UK, said: “As a charity, we’ve campaigned tirelessly to give patients access to DVD. We’ve provided key evidence and patient testimony to get this over the line and this decision is truly the culmination of years of hard work on behalf of the myeloma community. 

“DVD is now the third myeloma treatment to have been permanently approved through the Cancer Drugs Fund, and really shows how vital initiatives like this fund are to ensuring that patients get fast-track access to the latest, most effective drugs.” 

Professor Graham Jackson, Chief Clinical and Scientific Advisor at Myeloma UK, added:  

“This approval widens the already excellent options we have for the second line treatment of myeloma and gives more patients access to daratumumab at this treatment line. It is always positive to have more options at each line of therapy so that healthcare teams can best fit treatments to patients’ individual needs.”

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Last Updated: 24-Apr-2023