Immunotherapy using a combination of two drugs for aggressive melanoma has been approved for use by the NHS England. People suffering from skin cancer will now be paid for this treatment in the UK.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of nivolumab with ipilimumab in melanoma patients whose skin cancer has spread around the body.
‘About 1,300 people a year diagnosed with advanced skin cancer in the UK could potentially benefit from the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab drugs approved for NHS use.’
The decision was very quick and was made after the clinical trial showed promising results against the condition. The combination therapy was tested on 95 skin cancer patients, of which 65% of patients lived more than two years and about 22% had no tumors at all.
The two immunotherapy drugs stimulated the immune system to attack the tumor cells efficiently. Nivolumab targets a receptor called as PD-1 and ipilimumab targets the CTLA-4 receptor. They are called as checkpoint inhibitors.
Nivolumab attaches itself to the outer part of the T-cells. It blocks the signal from the cancer cells, which makes the immune system to recognize them as a healthy cell. By blocking this signal, the drug triggers an immune response to attack and destroy the tumors. Ipilimumab, in turn, helps in the multiplication of T-cells.
Thus, the combination of these two drugs helps in reducing skin cancer in the affected individuals. This treatment is now available all over the UK, increasing hopes for thousands of melanoma patients who currently have very few treatment options.