New drug available for rare thyroid cancer on NHS in England
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended the use of the drug selpercatinib (Retevmo) for some people in England with a type of advanced thyroid cancer.
The drug is now available through the Cancer Drugs Fund, which helps provide access to promising new treatments, as an option for patients with advanced thyroid cancers that have abnormalities in a gene called RET.
While the clinical trial for selpercatinib is still ongoing, current results are positive, with around 70% to 80% of recipients responding to the treatment. The drug is also likely to have fewer side effects than current treatments. However, uncertainties remain as more data is needed.
“This decision is good news for people affected by these rare and aggressive types of thyroid cancer,” said Kruti Shrotri, head of policy development at Cancer Research UK.
“Because this drug has been approved through the Cancer Drugs Fund, patients who could benefit from it in England will be able to access it quickly while more evidence is gathered on its effectiveness.”
Selpercatinib has been approved to treat patients with a rare, advanced thyroid cancer if they need additional therapy after initial treatment. This specifically includes:
- Adults with advanced RET fusion-positive thyroid cancer who need systemic therapy after sorafenib (Nexavar) or lenvatinib (Lenvima, Kisplyx);
- People 12 years and older with advanced RET-mutant medullary thyroid cancer who need systemic therapy after cabozantinib (Cometriq, Cabometyx) or vandetanib (Caprelsa).
These types of thyroid cancer are rare, and abnormalities in the RET gene are associated with more aggressive disease and poorer outcomes for patients.
Patient experts noted that thyroid cancer can be devastating for people and their families, not only because of the shock of the initial diagnosis, but also because of the relative lack of treatment options that are available. Some of the current treatments, including the targeted drugs lenvatinib and sorafenib, are also associated with significant side effects.
As selpercatinib specifically targets RET abnormalities, clinical experts noted that it would likely provide benefit to patients while being less toxic than currently available treatments, potentially improving the quality of life for people with these cancers.