After becoming available in England and Wales in June, gamechanging new ovarian cancer drug niraparib (Zejula®) was today approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC). Niraparib works by stopping cancer cells from repairing themselves, effectively crippling them.
New targeted treatments, which exploit weaknesses in cancer cells, are almost unheard of in ovarian cancer – just two have been approved for use by the SMC before now. Niraparib is the first time a breakthrough drug has been made available to women with recurrent ovarian cancer on a mass scale.
In Scotland, niraparib is now available to women with relapsed high grade serous epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer who are in response (complete or partial) to platinum-based chemotherapy, and who do not have a BRCA mutation.
Women who do have a BRCA mutation, who make up roughly 15 per cent of women with an ovarian cancer diagnosis, can already access treatment for recurrent disease through another PARP inhibitor called olaparib (Lynparza®).
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Today’s announcement is a gamechanger in ovarian cancer, and shows that Scotland is leading the way in access to new ovarian cancer drugs. With niraparib, we’re taking the fight to ovarian cancer. We know that with the right investment in new treatments, more women can and will survive this disease. Today is a critical first step in making that a reality.”
Better access for all
Niraparib is now available across the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland. Together we can make sure women in the UK have the best chances of survival from ovarian cancer. Join our campaign to make this innovative new treatment available in Northern Ireland.
Niraparib – my story
Catherine was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July 2014, but had been experiencing symptoms for up to six years previously and had been diagnosed with IBS and food intolerances, which is a common misdiagnosis in ovarian cancer. When the symptoms got worse, Catherine went back to her GP once again. She was referred for tests and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few weeks later. After a full hysterectomy and six rounds of chemotherapy, Catherine experienced a period where she was well, but the cancer came back and she was referred for further rounds of chemotherapy. Her oncologist recommended her for a special early access scheme for new drug niraparib, which does not require frequent hospital visits and can be taken in tablet form at home. Although Catherine experienced some side effects at first, once the dose had been altered, her cancer markers began to stabilise and the cancer growth slowed down. Catherine has been taking niraparib for 10 months. She says:
“When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, I was so shocked – I’d been having problems with digestion and with my tummy for years but I never thought it could be cancer. The cancer is advanced, but last October I started taking niraparib - and now I can see a future for myself. I had such a fear of cancer – but now I have a chance to live with it. I believe all women living with this disease should have that, too.”