The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has invited Merck to submit a Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) proposal for its immunotherapy, avelumab, for the treatment of patients with Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).

MCC is a rare and aggressive type of skin cancer that occurs in the top layer of the patient’s skin, often close to nerve endings, which means the tumours can be painful.

Avelumab is a form of immunotherapy that can fight cancer by harnessing the power of the patient’s own immune system to destroy and kill the cancer cells.

NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation director Carole Longson said: “MCC is a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

“There are limited treatment options and the cancer can spread rapidly, which we know can be frightening for both patients and families.

“Avelumab is a promising treatment that has the potential to be cost effective. I hope Merck will work with us to submit a CDF proposal.”

“Avelumab is a promising treatment that has the potential to be cost effective. I hope Merck will work with us to submit a CDF proposal.”

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Including a therapy in the CDF means patients can have access to the treatment while the developer collects more data on the efficacy of the drug.

The additional evidence will then be submitted to the NICE committee that would reconsider the drug for routine availability for patients on the National Health Service (NHS).

Marketed as Bavencio, avelumab was evaluated by NICE as a treatment option for MCC.

The UK committee has found that current clinical data obtained from one small trial suggests avelumab can extend patient survival compared with chemotherapy.

However, additional data is still being collected.