Yesterday, we shared the news that a second-line drug has become licensed for pancreatic cancer, and there has been a lot of excitement about this new treatment. Our chief executive, Ali Stunt, shares some further thoughts on the drug below following some confusion about the drug and what it means for patients.
While it is good news to hear about another therapy being available for pancreatic cancer, we still have an uphill struggle to get it routinely prescribed on the NHS. Currently in the UK, Onivyde® is only available to private patients.
It is also important to note that Onivyde® is only licensed for the treatment of metastatic (when it has spread to other organs) pancreatic cancer when first-line treatment gemcitabine has failed to treat the disease. Therefore it is a second-line treatment only.
Some people have expressed concern that Onivyde® is similar to another pancreatic cancer treatment FOLFIRINOX because that also contains irinotecan, 5-FU and Leucovorin. FOLFIRINOX can be considered to be more toxic than other therapies and is generally only used by very fit patients. Although Onivyde® includes the drug irinotecan (that is also in the FOLFIRINOX regimen), it is in modified form. In Onivyde® however, irinotecan is built into a chemical container of sorts called a liposome. This liposome allows the drug to be released slowly over time, allowing it to be more effective. It is given alongside 5FU and folic acid and in clinical trials is shown to be tolerated reasonably well.