American pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb has received a recommendation from the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that could deny the use of nivolumab to treat National Health Service (NHS) patients with kidney cancer.

Being the first in a new class of medicines for kidney cancer, called PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors, nivolumab works by harnessing the ability of the immune system to combat specific types of kidney, lung and skin cancers.

In draft guidance out for consultation, nivolumab has not been recommended for treating adult patients affected with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC), whose disease has progressed after previous treatment.

Though NICE has approved nivolumab for patients with advanced skin cancer, it intends to deny it to those affected with advanced lung and kidney cancer.

Bristol-Myers Squibb UK and Ireland general manager Johanna Mercier said: "Nivolumab is a game-changing medicine, which has been consistently recognised in its approved indications by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), as a promising innovative medicine.

"It has always been our aim to ensure that it provides value to the NHS and for all of the cancer types where it could benefit patients.

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"Through the MHRA’s Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS), Bristol-Myers Squibb has provided treatment to 388 UK patients across multiple tumour types prior to licence.

"It is now up to the Government to provide NHS access for the benefit of kidney cancer patients and their families."

"It is now up to the Government to provide NHS access for the benefit of kidney cancer patients and their families."

The decision of NICE focuses on patients with advanced kidney cancer, whose cancer has spread and is incurable.

The draft NICE guidance for nivolumab in kidney cancer has been shared with consultees, including doctors, patients and professional groups.

The consultees have four weeks to provide a response to the draft decision, after which the NICE Appraisal Committee will meet again to decide on the use of nivolumab for kidney cancer patients in the UK.

Image: Micrograph of a clear cell renal cell carcinoma. Photo: courtesy of Nephron.