1. ITV Report

Cancer drug invented by Newcastle University approved for use in Europe

Susan Ross with her partner Paul Appleby. Credit: Personal photo/Newcastle Uni

Cancer patients in Europe can now receive a life-extending drug invented and developed by scientists at Newcastle University.

Women with recurrent ovarian cancer have been given access to the Rubraca®, following approval of the drug by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

This allows the drug to be available on the European market, but it has to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Scottish Medicines Consortium, before allowing ovarian cancer patients in the UK with a BRCA gene mutation to access the new treatment.

Rubraca® has been approved for ovarian cancer patients with a faulty BRCA gene.

What is Rubraca?

It was first discovered approximately 20 years ago, it came out of research initiated at Newcastle University by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists.

Studies have shown that the oral medication has a high success rate as 54% of women on clinical trials had complete or partial shrinkage of their tumour for an average of 9.2 months.

“It is very exciting and the culmination of many years of research from a team here in Newcastle, and in collaborations with others, that Rubraca® has been licensed by the EMA.

“It means this drug, which prolongs patients’ lives, will become available to patients across Europe.”

– Ruth Plummer, Clinical Professor of Experimental Medicine at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University, was the firs
  • Each year, around 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer across the UK and one in 50 women will develop the disease at some point in their life.
  • Around 15% to 20% of women with ovarian cancer will have a BRCA gene mutation, putting them at increased risk of developing other cancers and a 50% risk of passing the faulty gene to their children.

A patient’s story

Susan Ross has been on Rubraca® under Dr Drew’s care at the Freeman Hospital’s Northern Centre for Cancer Care in Newcastle for more than two years.

The 60-year-old from Whitley Bay, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer with a BRCA gene mutation over 10 years ago and says she feels 'great' after being given the drug as part of a clinical trial.

Susan has been on Rubraca® since December 2015, when her ovarian cancer returned and was not operable.

Her tumour has shrunk completely and she continues to receive the treatment as part of a clinical trial.

“It is wonderful that Rubraca® has been given EMA approval and women in Europe eligible for this treatment will be able to receive it.

“I feel the best I’ve felt since before my ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2007. I have my life back and I’ve been to far afield countries like Australia and Japan.

“The team at Newcastle University should be very proud of what they have achieved as Rubraca® is offering hope to ovarian cancer patients with the BRCA gene mutation that they can live their life well.

“I would like to thank all those who have been involved in Rubraca’s® development and to the clinical team who have looked after me so well.”

– Susan Ross

Susan underwent four operations and three rounds of chemotherapy before being enrolled on the clinical trial.

She continues to be closely monitored with regular CT scans.