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New guidelines reject cancer drugs

Four treatments for patients with advanced kidney cancer are to be denied on the NHS under new guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Charities have expressed outrage at the decision to reject Sutent (sunitinib), Avastin (bevacizumab), Nexavar (sorafenib) and Torisel (temsirolimus), saying it left patients only one treatment option - interferon - to which many do not respond.

Professor John Wagstaff, from the South Wales Cancer Institute, said there was "no point" in him accepting referrals for people with advanced kidney cancer as around 75% of them "do not gain any real benefit" from interferon. The only other option was to make patients comfortable in their last months of life.

The draft guidance says the drugs are not cost effective for patients with advanced and/or metastatic kidney cancer. It advises that patients already on the therapies should continue until they and their doctors consider it appropriate to stop.

Up to 7,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year, and at any one time some 3,600 people are living with the advanced form.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at NICE, said: "NHS resources are not limitless and NICE has to decide what treatments represent best value to the patient as well as the NHS."

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