The National Institute for Health and Care excellence (NICE) has recommended Eisai and MSD’s Lenvima (lenvatinib), a potentially life-extending treatment for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in adults with Child-Pugh grade A liver impairment and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status of 0 or 1.

The drug will be available for people with advanced liver cancer, whose disease cannot be treated surgically but whose liver is well-functioning, and works by slowing down the growth and spread of cancer cells by cutting off the blood supply that keeps cancer cells growing.

The appraisal made by NICE, made on the back of data showing that patients experienced a median overall survival of 13.6 months compared to 12.3 months with alternative treatment Nexavar, while median PFS was 7.3 months versus 3.6 months, respectively, will benefit around 900 hundred patients each year.

According to the British Liver Trust in the UK there are more than 5,500 new cases of primary liver cancer diagnosed each year, which is around 15 patients per day, with typically more men being diagnosed than women.

NICE’s decision is fantastic news for liver cancer patients, as currently the only first-line treatment available is Nexavar (sorafenib), which is unusable for about a quarter of prescribed patents due to intense side effects including diarrhoea, skin rash, weight loss, and nausea or vomiting. Despite Lenvima also having potential side effects such as hypertension, it will offer an alternative first-line treatment option.

Lenvima was first approved in the US in 2015 for patients with locally recurrent or metastatic, progressive, radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), and in 2016 in combination with everolimus for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC), before being given the green light in August 2018 for the first-line treatment of patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).