Thousands of men are to benefit from a new prostate cancer drug which has been approved for use on the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended enzalutamide as an option for treating some types of prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer UK said the news was welcome for thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer, especially those who are unable to have chemotherapy.
The drug has been used during the pandemic as a so-called “Covid-friendly” cancer drug, which patients can take in the comfort of their own home instead of needing intravenous medication in a health setting.
Now new draft guidance from Nice should enable wider use.
The guidance says that the drug, also known as Xtandi and made by Astellas, can be used with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), as an option for treating hormone-sensitive metastatic prostate cancer in adults.
It has estimated that around 8,500 men will be able to access the drug, which works by blocking the effect of the hormone testosterone on prostate cancer cells.
Without testosterone, the prostate cancer cells cannot grow, even if they have spread to other parts of the body.
Clinical trials have shown that the treatment increases the time until the disease gets worse and how long people live.
Meindert Boysen, deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at Nice, said: “Enzalutamide plus ADT offers another option for people with hormone-sensitive metastatic prostate cancer, especially for people who cannot have docetaxel, or who choose not to have it because of its side effects.
“Also, it is taken by mouth so is more convenient than docetaxel, which is an intravenous treatment.”
Professor Peter Johnson, clinical director for cancer for the NHS in England, said: “Previously made available as part of the NHS’s package of ‘Covid-friendly’ cancer treatments, this life-extending drug is the latest that the NHS will now offer permanently to patients with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer.
“Throughout the last year, the NHS has been offering people with cancer treatment options that are not only effective but safer and more convenient for use during the pandemic, allowing many to take medication at home or be given medicines with less harmful effects on their immune system.
“This approach has benefited thousands of patients and is one of the lasting legacies of the NHS’s response to the pandemic, set to benefit thousands more people in the future.”
Angela Culhane, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This is fantastic news for thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer, especially those who have additional illnesses that make them unsuitable for chemotherapy.
“It finally guarantees them access to a treatment which is just as effective as chemotherapy and can give them back precious time with their families.”