The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has recommended American pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo (nivolumab) to treat the country’s National Health Service (NHS) patients with advanced skin cancer.

The life-extending nivolumab treatment will be used on previously-untreated adult patients with advanced unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

Bristol-Myers Squibb UK and Ireland general manager Benjamin Hickey said: “Nivolumab is a game-changing medicine and we are delighted that NHS patients in Scotland will now have it available as a treatment option for advanced skin cancer.

“Today’s decision follows the recent SMC decision to recommend nivolumab for advanced squamous lung cancer, making the SMC the first UK reimbursement authority to recognise the value of nivolumab to patients in different cancer types.

“We remain committed to bringing Scottish patients rapid access to nivolumab in its additional licensed indications.”

Unresectable or metastatic melanoma is an advanced stage of skin cancer when it cannot be surgically removed as it has spread to other parts of the body, and can prove to be fatal.

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"We remain committed to bringing Scottish patients rapid access to nivolumab in its additional licensed indications."

It is the most dangerous form of skin cancer that causes more deaths than any other form of the disease.

Nivolumab treatment works by harnessing the ability of the immune system to combat advanced metastatic or unresectable skin cancer.

Compared to chemotherapy, the Bristol-Myers drug has significantly been able to improve survival rate of patients with the disease, irrespective of whether a patient has received prior treatment.

Previously untreated patients who received nivolumab have faced fewer serious treatment-related adverse events compared with chemotherapy.

Image: Melanoma in skin biopsy with H&E stain. Photo: courtesy of KGH.