Within the next three months, eligible patients with kidney cancer should be able to get routine access to Bristol-Myers Squibb's immunotherapy Opdivo on the NHS across England and Wales.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has now published final guidance recommending use of Opdivo (nivolumab) within its marketing authorisation, as an option for previously treated advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) in adults, as long as the drug is provided at the discount agreed in the patient access scheme.

Clinical trials have shown that patients treated with the drug after their previous therapy was no longer effective lived for an average of 5.4 months longer than those who received standard targeted therapy, Novartis' Afinitor (everolimus; 25 months versus 19.6 months, respectively). BMS said Opdivo also provided an improved quality of life as patients experienced fewer serious treatment-related side effects.

Over the last 40 years, the number of new patients diagnosed with kidney cancer each year has more than doubled, rising by 166 percent - mainly because of lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking - highlighting the urgent need for new treatment options.

According to NICE, around 900 RCC patients are likely to be treated with the Opdivo each year.