NICE provisionally rejects breast cancer drug

Afinitor 2 NICE draft guidance does not recommend Afinitor (everolimus), a treatment for advanced breast cancer that can increase progression-free survival by four months.

The Novartis drug, described by charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer as “one of the biggest advances in breast cancer treatment in many years”, does not meet NICE’s criteria for an ‘end of life treatment’.

The decision will heighten concern over NICE’s QALY metric for value, which the European Commission recently declared to be scientifically invalid.

Afinitor, an oral formulation of everolimus (which is already widely used as an immunosuppressant), is licensed for use in post-menopausal women with advanced HER-2 negative breast cancer, which will not respond to Herceptin.

The drug inhibits the division of tumour cells and the growth of blood vessels around a tumour, thereby inhibiting tumour growth and metastasis.

Clinical trial results published in September 2012 found that Afinitor could ‘stall’ advanced breast cancer by four to five months.

Dr Rachel Greig of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: “Everolimus is one of the biggest advances in breast cancer treatment in many years.”

Though “by no means a cure,” she commented, “it could give patients several extra months of good quality of life with their families.”

Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE’s Chief Executive, explained: “While the independent Appraisal Committee acknowledged that everolimus may offer a step change in treatment by restoring sensitivity of the tumour to hormone therapy, the evidence highlighted uncertainty relating to how much the treatment extends overall survival.”

The failure to extend overall survival was only considered crucial because Afinitor did not meet NICE’s criteria for an ‘end of life drug’, since its target patients had a life expectancy slightly over two years.

Consultation on the draft guidance will remain open until 22 April 2013.