Eisai has officially launched Halaven in the UK, just a week after production of the novel breast cancer treatment started at the company’s £600 million manufacturing facility at Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

Cancer specialists have responded enthusiastically to the drug, since it addresses a previously unmet need for new treatment options for women with advanced breast cancer. Speaking at the launch, Chris Twelves of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre, Leeds, said the introduction of Halaven (eribulin) for patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer would likely nudge out older agents such as vinorelbine and gemcitabine which had ‘"slim" evidence of efficacy, compared with robust overall survival data for eribulin from the Phase III EMBRACE study.

He said that oncologists in several parts of the country were already adding Halaven to their local list of preferred drugs to receive money from the Cancer Drugs Fund. Prof Twelves added that BUPA and several other private insurers have rapidly approved use of the agent.

NICE meeting in a month

Halaven was referred to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for clinical and cost effectiveness in September and the first appraisal committee meeting will be next month (June 23). A decision is scheduled for December.

The cost of the new treatment is comparable to other newer agents for advanced disease at £313 per vial. Three vials comprise one dose and six vials constitute one cycle of therapy (depending on the patient’s weight).  Patients will generally need three to six cycles of treatment.

Eisai will be presenting 19 abstracts covering eribulin, plus results on other agents for thyroid cancer, acute myeloid leukaemia, metastatic breast cancer, ovarian and other cancers at next month’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. Presentations will include data on lenvatinib (E7080) in thyroid cancer and advanced melanoma;  farletuzumab (MORAb-003 ) in ovarian cancer; MORAb-004 (MOR4), a humanized monoclonal antibody recognising TEM-1 (endosialin) in patients with solid tumours and decitabine in myelodysplastic syndromes and acute myeloid leukaemia.