New lifesaving treatment for people battling skin cancer
A combination of two drugs reduced the risk of melanoma returning or death by over 50%.
A lifesaving treatment for post-surgery patients battling the most aggressive type of skin cancer is now available on the NHS in Scotland.
Dabrafenib in combination with trametinib has been recommended as a cost-effective option for the adjuvant treatment of adult patients with stage-three melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation, following surgery.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium's recommendation follows clinical trial results, which showed that the oral drug combination reduced the risk of melanoma returning or death by over 50%.
Dr Ashita Waterston, medical oncology consultant at Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, said: "This treatment option will transform the standard of care for people with BRAF-positive stage-three melanoma living in Scotland.
"By treating these patients with tablets it allows flexibility for patients, particularly those living a distance away."
The number of people diagnosed with melanoma in Scotland has soared in recent years, with around 1380 new cases every year.
Between four and five out of every ten of these melanomas have the BRAF mutation.
In the UK, melanoma accounts for more deaths than all other skin cancers combined. There are around 180 deaths from melanoma skin cancer in Scotland each year.
Stage-three melanoma means that cancer cells have spread into skin, lymph vessels or lymph glands close to the melanoma, but they haven't yet spread to more distant parts of the body.
'For many years, patients simply had to hope their melanoma would not return, which can often be an incredibly anxious time since in over half of all melanoma patients, their cancer did return'Dr Ashita Waterston
Dr Waterston added: "Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and until recently there were no reimbursed treatment options for these patients.
"For many years, patients simply had to hope their melanoma would not return, which can often be an incredibly anxious time since in over half of all melanoma patients, their cancer did return."
Until now, there were no reimbursed BRAF-targeted treatments that offered clear benefits for Scottish patients following surgery.
Prior to recent approvals, nearly half (44%) of those with BRAF V600 mutated melanoma suffered a recurrence within a year after surgery, with the risk that the cancer progresses to an incurable state.
The combination treatment is a convenient oral therapy that can be taken at home, consisting of five tablets a day.
Prior to the recent adjuvant therapy funding decisions, radiotherapy was the only reimbursed treatment option in Scotland and it was only used in specific cases.
As a result, for the majority of post-surgery patients in Scotland a 'watch and wait' approach, to see if the cancer progressed to the next stage, was the accepted standard of care.
'The availability of this treatment for people living in Scotland is a huge step forward for these patients, who are currently left with few options following surgery'Leigh Smith, chair of Melanoma Action and Support Scotland
Leigh Smith MBE TD, chair of Melanoma Action and Support Scotland, said: "We've seen a huge increase in the number of people being diagnosed with melanoma in Scotland over the last decade, which is a very worrying trend.
"The availability of this treatment for people living in Scotland is a huge step forward for these patients, who are currently left with few options following surgery.
"This is the first BRAF-targeted treatment option that can be taken orally from the comfort of their own home.
"Until now, most treatments required patients to travel into hospital which can be a time-consuming and stressful experience for the patient as well as their families; the convenience of this treatment has the potential to make a really positive difference."