Monday, 20 May 2024
Monday, 20 May 2024

Cancer charity hails decision to make ‘invaluable treatment’ available on the NHS

A leading cancer charity has hailed the decision to make an innovative and targeted radiotherapy treatment available on the NHS for patients with neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) in the liver.

Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) has previously only been available to patients whose liver cancer had developed in the organ directly or spread to it from the bowel – despite it being one of the most common sites for NETs to spread to.

However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today issued new guidance recommending it as a treatment option for patients with NETs in the liver on the NHS.

SIRT involves injecting millions of tiny radioactive beads called microspheres – smaller than the width of a human hair – into the blood supply in the liver.

The beads stick to the small blood vessels in cancer cells in the liver and release radiation which destroys them, causing minimal damage to surrounding healthy cells as the radiation only travels a few millimetres from where the beads settle.

In its review, NICE found SIRT, which can take one to two hours, may result in fewer side effects, faster recovery times and better quality of life for patients compared with surgery or chemotherapy.

PLANETS, which helps patients with pancreatic, liver, colorectal, abdominal (oesophageal and gastric) and NET cancers, has long campaigned for NICE to recommend SIRT for these patients and called it a ‘major step forward’.

NETs are rare types of cancer which are usually found in the pancreas, bowel or lungs but can also develop in other parts of the body.

They arise from cells found throughout the body which form a link between the nervous system and the endocrine system, a collection of glands which produce hormones.

Around 6,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the UK, though it is thought that a larger number of people are affected but remain undiagnosed as the cancers are slow-growing.

If detected early they can often be cured with surgery but, at present, most are diagnosed at a later stage when they have already spread to other parts of the body, commonly the liver.

Until now, treatment options for NETs in the liver have been limited to surgery, percutaneous ablation (heat delivered via a probe), embolisation (drug injected into the organ to stop the blood supply), radionuclide therapy (radioactive substance injected into the bloodstream) and chemotherapy.

Layla Stephen, a NET cancer patient and CEO of PLANETS, said:

“We are so pleased NICE has issued this new guideline on SIRT as it will help ensure that more cancer patients in England can access this invaluable treatment option if funding is made available by NHS England.

“This is a major step forward for NET patients who, until now, have only had access to this treatment privately.

“Making SIRT available will make a significant difference as it not only provides another treatment option but one that offers fewer side effects, fewer visits to hospital and a better quality of life.

“I have had a multitude of different treatments for my liver tumours, some of which have been incredibly invasive with numerous side effects and, disappointingly, SIRT has always been a treatment that has been out of reach for me as it had not been offered within the NHS.

“All patients with NETs in the liver deserve equal access to this innovative treatment and, following this decision by NICE, I am hopeful the treatment will now be an additional option my interventional radiologist can consider when looking at what is next for my disease management.”

Dr Brian Stedman, a consultant interventional radiologist at University Hospital Southampton – one of 14 centres offering SIRT – and co-founder of PLANETS, said:

“Our attempts to treat cancer when it has spread to the liver are often compromised by the harm the treatments cause to the healthy liver and, ultimately, the wellbeing of our patients.

“SIRT treatment is incredibly well tolerated and in our experience results in the best long-term outcome in selected patients.

“As an interventional radiologist I, along with the PLANETS team, have long championed access to this new and innovative therapy through the NHS and are delighted specialists at NICE have come to the same conclusion.

“Today marks a very positive development for our NET patients and specialist teams.”

Dr Sachin Modi, a consultant Interventional radiologist at University Hospital Southampton and member of the PLANETS clinical team, added:

“Research shows that NETs, as a collective group, is the tenth most prevalent cancer in England and, with the increasing incidence of NETs diagnoses, it is critical that there are a variety of treatment options that enable clinicians to improve patient care.”

Xavier Bertrand, vice president of peripheral interventions for Boston Scientific, whose form of SIRT known as TheraSphere™ Y90 Microspheres was among those reviewed by NICE, said:

“Targeted, minimally invasive cancer treatment can improve patient outcomes and reduce pressure on healthcare systems. We are excited that this guidance means more patients could benefit from this therapy in a way that addresses disparities in their ability to access healthcare.”

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