Skin cancer drug gains EMA approval

Erivedge web The first drug for a type of advanced skin cancer has gained approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Erivedge (vismodegib) from Roche offers people with severe basal cell carcinoma in the UK a chemotherapy option for the first time.

About 700 people each year are diagnosed with the advanced form of the disease in the UK, and the prognosis is currently poor – especially if surgery and radiotherapy have already failed.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer in the UK, often occurring on the head and neck.

The cancer is caused by reactivation of the ‘hedgehog pathway’, a metabolic process that is normally only active in early life. Erivedge can block the hedgehog pathway and so prevent the cancer from growing and proliferating.

Unless the drug, which costs £6,000 per month, is recommended by NICE patients in England will only be able to access it via the Cancer Drugs Fund – which runs out at the end of 2013.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “We are proud to have played a key role in the early development of this drug and we’re delighted that it has passed this regulatory hurdle and is approved for use in the UK.

“This drug is a major advance for the treatment of this disease, providing advanced basal cell carcinoma patients with a new treatment option. This is great news for patients.”