A British health agency, Public Health England, announced on Monday that they had authorized the use of an antiviral drug used to treat HIV, in cases of cervical cancer. This development opens the possibility of non-antiretroviral treatments and immunological cancer therapies working as preventative measures in future, after the breakthroughs in immunotherapy methods for cancers treated earlier this year. The drug, which Merck produced, is intended to be given to cancer patients earlier and instead of putting patients in remission, as sometimes happens in stem cell transplants, the drug would allow the patient to live with the disease and fight it off and prevent the need for a transplant.
Scottish women and gynecologists have already used the drug for a cervical cancer treatment, with such great success, that the drug’s patent had to be reissued because it had not protected the use of the drug in the U.K. Therefore, Public Health England issued an immediate license for the drug, known as Gazyva, on Monday. The medication was approved because it had already been extensively studied in various countries and proven to work well. However, doctors are not yet sure how effective the medication will be at reducing the spread of cancer throughout the body. If it works well, it may even lead to doctors being able to remove more of the cancer without the need for a transplant.
In cases of thyroid cancer, when patients had the ability to take a drug like Gazyva and avoid unnecessary treatments, the effect was that they often lived for a few months longer, which in turn led to less side effects and likely fewer deaths. And doctors were particularly excited because the new drug has been shown to cause very few side effects compared to other medications. In fact, the Drug Safety Assessment Group, the Health Protection Agency, and the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency were completely unanimous in their determination to authorise the use of the drug.
The drugs had been presented to the EU’s General Medicines Committee, which had recommended using the drug to treat cancer, but there was no firm order issued, and the drug was only given to specialists for possible use in the U.K. According to the Telegraph, this left Merck perplexed. “We were able to work with (Public Health England) to be able to submit a pure, complete European safety and efficacy package,” said Merck chief medical officer, Rob Willenbrock. “We are absolutely thrilled that our safety and efficacy data are going to be used in the U.K.”
The drug can be taken orally and has been proven to reduce cell growth in the human body by 90 percent. Because of this, it is expected to have significant advantage over other antiviral drugs, that are not specifically designed to be used as preventative and immunological treatments. Despite the fact that Gazyva has already had success, this approval only spurs on the idea that cancer treatment and prevention are an increasingly important part of modern medicine.
Read the full story at The Telegraph.
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