UK NICE backs some Herceptin use in gastric cancer

* Herceptin recommended for certain patients only

* NICE revises decision after new data from Roche

LONDON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Britain's health cost watchdog has recommended the National Health Service should pay for Roche's ROG.VX cancer drug Herceptin in some cases for patients where stomach cancer has spread.

Herceptin only works in cancer patients whose tumours have high levels of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, or HER2, and is not suitable for others.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said it was recommending Herceptin, known generically as trastuzumab, in combination with common chemotherapy drugs for people with HER2-positive, metastatic adenocarcinoma of the stomach or gastro-oesophageal junction who have not received prior treatment for their spreading disease.

To be eligible, patients should also have tumours that express high levels of HER2 as defined by a positive immunohistochemistry score of 3 (IHC3 positive), the cost watchdog said.

Herceptin was approved for NHS funding for the early treatment of women with HER2-positive breast cancer in June 2006 after a long battle by cancer campaigners for NICE to recommend it. But for stomach cancer, NICE said in July that it was rejecting the drug as not cost-effective. [ID:nLDE68R1WA]

Andrew Dillon, NICE’s chief executive, said on Wednesday that during talks after the July draft guidance was issued, Roche submitted new data on a subgroup of patients with the highest levels of HER2.

“The committee discussed this new information and concluded that trastuzumab was cost-effective in this patient group,” he said in a statement.

According to NICE, gastric cancer affects around 8,200 people in Britain every year, around 500 of whom would be eligible for treatment with Herceptin. The drug, which is given by injection, works by attaching itself to the HER2 protein to stop the cancer cells from growing. (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Will Waterman)