NICE recommends avelumab as treatment for adults with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended a new treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer. The treatment, avelumab, will benefit over 800 patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer.

The draft guidance recommends avelumab – also known as Bavencio and made by Merck Serono – as maintenance treatment for adults with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer that has not got worse after platinum-based chemotherapy.

According to research, avelumab increases people’s life-span as well as the length of time before their disease worsens, compared with best supportive care.

Avelumab is also a monoclonal antibody which attaches to a specific protein in the body known as PD-L1 – this works by binding to the PD-L1 protein and blocks its effect. It also allows the immune system to attack tumour cells.

The recommended dose of this treatment is 800mg, every two weeks and is administered intravenously through a drip over a one hour period.

Urothelial cancer is a type of bladder cancer, and is three to four more times more common in men than women. Approximately one in 50 men and one in 133 women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in their lifetime. Most of the cases occur in people who are over 60, and the main risk factor for bladder cancer is increasing age. Smoking also increases the risk as well.

Helen Knight, interim director for medicines evaluation at NICE, commented: “People with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer often have a poor quality of life and a poor prognosis. Avelumab is a promising drug which has the potential to extend life.”

She added: “The committee recognised there are few treatments available to people with this form of cancer, many of whom have to wait until their disease gets worse before they are able to have immunotherapy or further courses of chemotherapy.”