The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended the drug cabozantinib as an option for treating advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a type of primary liver cancer. The British Liver Trust submitted evidence to NICE on behalf of patients. The Trust is delighted that these views have now been listened to and this new treatment can now be made available on the NHS in England and Wales.
The drug is recommended as a second-line or third-line systemic therapy after progression on or intolerance to the first-line medication sorafenib. This means that it can be used after the initial treatment (first-line treatment) if that has failed, stopped working, or has side effects that aren’t tolerated.
Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Communications & Policy, British Liver Trust said: “People living with the most common form of primary liver cancer, HCC, have a poor prognosis and there are very few treatments available. Often, the disease is diagnosed so late that palliative care is the only option. The nurses on the British Liver Trust’s helpline hear every day from patients who are completely devastated. They live with uncertainty, hopelessness and often stigma and isolation due to the image of liver cancer. Treatments that buy extra time can not only positively impact those individuals but can also have a huge positive impact on families and the wider community, so today’s recommendation is an important step forward in the treatment of HCC.”
Professor Tim Meyer, Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at UCL Cancer Institute and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology at the Royal Free Hospital added, “HCC is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide and has one of the lowest five-year survivals of all cancers. For patients with advanced disease, treatment options remain limited, and outcomes are poor. Today’s recommendation by NICE will make cabozantinib available to such patients and provides an important addition to the therapeutic landscape for HCC. Cabozantinib has been proven to improve survival, slow disease progression and delay deterioration in disease related symptoms when used as second- or third-line treatment, and the decision to allow its use will be welcomed by doctors treating this challenging disease.”
Hepatocellular carcinoma is a cancer that originates in the liver, not as the result of tumours spreading to the liver from other parts of the body. There were 4,975 people diagnosed with HCC in England in 2017. Treatment depends on the stage of the disease and liver function. Options include surgery, ablation, transarterial therapies, systemic therapies (such as lenvatinib and sorafenib) and best supportive care.