The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved the combination of nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) for patients in England and Wales with metastatic melanoma.
Ipilumumab targets the CTLA-4 molecule found in immune cells. Nivolumab targets PD-1. In tests, when used independently, few patients responded. In combination, nearly 60% of melanoma patients responded favorably.
Nearly 12,200 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year. Of these cases, about 1,300 patients could be eligible for the combination treatment.
In a press release, Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said the new combination bring hope to melanoma patients but he warned that powerful treatments usually come with more chances for side effects. He suggested that further research should focus on how best to apply the combination therapy.
“Our research now needs to identify which patients are most likely to benefit from this combination and who is most likely to experience the side effects, so doctors can make sure we get the balance right,” Johnson said.
The CheckMate 069 study, a Phase 2 study that achieved promising results was credited for the NICE decision – one of the fasted in the agency’s history. The results, presented at an AACR Annual Meeting in 2015, reported that 60% of 95 patients in the study had experienced extended survival rate two years after the trial.
“The evidence we examined was very promising and I know further trials are ongoing which have also released encouraging data.” said Carole Longson, director of the health technology evaluation centre at NICE.