A new radioactive treatment for prostate cancer that has spread to the bones has received approval by NICE for use in the NHS. The drug, Xofigo, will be available from December 2016 and is expected to help reduce bone pain and fractures for hundreds of men across the UK.
Xofigo is made from Radium-223 dichloride and has been shown to reduce the bone symptoms of advanced prostate cancer such as fractures and bone pain and may even help men with the disease live longer. The radioactive nature of Radium-223 means that after it is injected into a vein, it collects in bones emitting alpha waves which kill of cancer cells but do not damage the surrounding healthy cells.
If given in high doses however, alpha particles can damage and destroy healthy cells which is what was used to assassinate former KGB agent Mr Litvinenko on British soil in 2006. However, when used in a controlled manner and in smaller doses Radium-223 is very safe and effective treatment for eradicating cancer cells in bones.
It is estimated that the average cost of a course of treatment is £24,240 and final guidance is expected to be published at the end of September.
Heather Blake, director of support and influencing at Prostate Cancer UK said: "Today's announcement is an important victory for men whose prostate cancer has spread to the bone and are unable to have chemotherapy."
Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: "This is an exciting and innovative example of a smarter, kinder treatment - specifically targeting bone metastasis and prolonging survival, while reducing the pain and discomfort brought about by bone tumours and improving quality of life."