The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), which reviews newly licensed medicines, has published advice recommending two new kidney cancer medicines for routine use by NHS Scotland.

Nivolumab (Opdivo), an immunotherapy for advanced kidney cancer, was accepted following consideration through the SMC’s Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) process, which is for medicines used at the end of life and for very rare conditions. Nivolumab has proven to increase overall survival and improve quality of life for advanced renal cancer patients, and is better tolerated than current standard treatments. As you know KCSN fought long and hard to ensure nivolumab is available in England and Wales, and we are thrilled that all this hard work has paid off and we now have equity of access across the UK for this breakthrough immunotherapy drug.

Cabozantinib (Cabometyx) was also accepted for the treatment of advanced renal cancer following consideration through PACE, and has been shown to increase the time until the disease progresses and extend overall survival. As an oral treatment, it also reduces the number of hospital visits patients have to make to receive treatment. We hope this decision by the SMC will positively influence NICE to finally approve cabozantinib for patients in England and Wales. NICE are scheduled to release their decision about cabozantinib during the week commencing 19 June.

In the meanwhile, we would like to thank all the KCSN members who helped us with our formal health technology appraisal submissions by sending in their thoughts and some very powerful quotes. And special thanks are due to Maria Doherty who helped us over the past couple of months gathering statements and hunting down evidence.

Maria Doherty has lived with advanced kidney cancer for over 8 years now – this announcement offers Maria and patients like her renewed hope:

“The availability of these two new drugs is a gift to each of us who are fighting to stay alive a little or maybe a lot longer. I have watched the progress of each drug since the first trials in the USA. I know people who have been helped immensely by them, including one man who was dying, cancer widespread through his body. He was put on the very first trial and now six years later has been off nivolumab for over a year with no recurrence and a body clear of cancer. Cabozantinib has given the same gift to many others. It gives our wonderful consultants a wider range of choice in our treatments and the ability to learn more from how we progress or indeed fail. We do not talk of miraculous cures but each new drug gives us a few more years of living happily with friends and family for support and keeps hope alive for a possible cure for kidney cancer. I am so grateful to everyone involved in making these drugs available.”

Dr Alan MacDonald, chairman of the SMC, said:

“We know from the evidence given by patient groups at our PACE meeting for nivolumab and cabozantinib that these two medicines will be valuable additions to the treatment currently available for patients with terminal renal cancer.”

Read the SMC press release here

Read the articles in the Glasgow Evening Times and BBC News Online