Cost regulators for the NHS treatments in England and Wales are expanding the scope of Merck's Erbitux so that the therapy will be routinely available to treat a wider range of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), moving the drug out of the Cancer Drugs Fund stream.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has issued a positive Final Appraisal Determination (FAD) endorsing the use of Erbitux (cetuximab) in combination with either FOLFIRI or FOLFOX as a first-line treatment for patients with RAS wild-type mCRC.

The decision expands on its previous recommendation, which backs use of the drug in combination with either FOLFOX or FOLFIRI solely for patients whose cancer had spread only to the liver.

"This recommendation means that patients will now have sustainable access to a targeted therapy treatment for the UK's fourth most common cancer and second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer," the firm said in a statement, also noting that "it recognises the positive effect epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors can have on survival for patients in this setting."

"Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer in the UK have very limited access to effective first-line treatments," said Jola Gore-Booth, founder/chief executive of the colorectal cancer patient advocacy group, EuropaColon. "We are therefore delighted with NICE's decision, as it means there is now more choice for patients in England regarding treatment options that they can benefit from."

The All Wales Medicines Strategy Group approved the drug as a potential first-line treatment for patients RAS wild-type mCRC in January last year.

The cost regulator also backed moving Amgen's Vectibix (panitumumab) out of the CDF and into routine commissioning as a first-line treatment for certain types of bowel cancer.