Decision on ovarian cancer drug olaparib is welcomed

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Cancer charities have welcomed a decision to approve a new drug for treatment of a rare form of incurable ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Action said the Scottish Medicines Consortium's decision on olaparib was "ground-breaking".

The SMC approved the drug after hearing that patients tended to be younger women with family and work commitments.

Cancer Research UK said trials have shown that olaparib can extend lives by an average of seven months.

Olaparib is already approved for use in England for people who are suffering with cancer for a third time.

In Scotland, it will be used by women who have relapsed with cancer for a second time.

Clinical trials

Katherine Taylor, chief executive of research charity Ovarian Cancer Action, said: "The SMC's decision to approve the routine use of olaparib is ground-breaking; a huge leap towards more personalised treatment for women facing ovarian cancer because of a genetic mutation."

The drug targets ovarian cancer in women with a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation.

Last year Angelina Jolie had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed after she was found to be at an increased risk of ovarian cancer due to a "faulty" BRCA 1 gene.

Ms Taylor warned that women in Scotland would only qualify for olaparib if their BRCA status is known.

She said: "NHS Scotland must continue to make sure that all patients are offered a BRCA test at diagnosis so they can be treated with the best drugs available."

Gregor McNie, of Cancer Research UK in Scotland, said the charity was also funding clinical trials to asses the potential for olaparib in the treatment of brain tumours and pancreatic cancer.

End of life

He added: "Cancer Research UK scientists played a pivotal role in discovering and developing olaparib and it is great news that the drug will now offer new hope to some women in Scotland with advanced disease.

"We look forward to further good news on olaparib in the future, with clinical trials showing it also has potential in other types of cancer."

Olaparib was approved by the SMC after being considered by its Patient Clinician Engagement (PACE) process which is used for medicines that treat end of life and very rare conditions.

Prof Jonathan Fox, chairman of the SMC, said: "As the first maintenance treatment for ovarian cancer, olaparib is an important development, and we know from the evidence given by patients and clinicians through our PACE process that it will be welcomed."

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