Women with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer have been given access to a ‘potentially life-saving’ drug after NHS bosses struck a deal with its manufacturer.
Up to 1,600 women a year will be able to get pembrolizumab, which has the potential to leave some who take it completely cancer-free, NHS England has said.
The drug – a form of immunotherapy – will be given to women with triple-negative breast cancer, for which few treatments currently exist. Patients with triple negative breast cancer have a shorter survival time than women with other forms of the disease and it is a particularly common form among those under 40, black women and those who have inherited the BRCA gene.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said the rollout of “an innovative and potentially life-saving treatment for one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer” was “fantastic news” and was “a hugely important moment for women”.
“It will give hope to those who are diagnosed and prevent cancer from progressing, allowing people to live normal, healthy lives,” she added.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) approved the drug in final draft guidance after successful negotiations over its price between NHS England and its manufacturer, pharmaceutical company MSB.
The health watchdog, which advises the NHS on treatments that are effective and represent good value for money, has given the green light to the drug used alongside chemotherapy to shrink a tumor in the breast before surgery, or alone, after operations on adults with triple negative early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence or locally advanced breast cancer.
“This new treatment has the potential to result in the disappearance of any detectable cancer at the time of surgery, which means that patients will then eventually be faced with less invasive, breast-conserving surgery,” said Delyth Morgan, CEO of the charity Breast Cancer Now.
“Furthermore, by greatly reducing the likelihood of breast cancer recurring or spreading to other parts of the body where it becomes an incurable secondary breast cancer, this treatment brings hope that more lives could be saved from this devastating disease.”
Nice said the drug is “an extra lifeline” for people with triple-negative breast cancer. It accounts for about one in five breast cancer diagnoses, but about one in four deaths.
“Evidence from clinical trials shows that adding pembrolizumab to chemotherapy before surgery and then continuing pembrolizumab alone after surgery increases the chance that the cancer will go away. It also increases the time before any cancer will come back” , Nice said.
But, he said, “It’s not clear if pembrolizumab increases people’s lifespans.”
Nice added that the fact that triple-negative breast cancer has a higher risk of recurrence than other forms of the disease and the paucity of proven treatments helped convince the endorsement.
The drug has proven effective in clinical trials in Britain. Lauren Sirey, an NHS nurse who received it as part of a trial at Barts Health Trust in London, has been cancer-free for almost five years after receiving it in 2017.
“Four months before my partner and I were due to get married, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 31. I was offered the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial and I am delighted to ‘to learn that this treatment has now been approved for use in the NHS,’ she said.
“This treatment allowed me to make a full recovery and I am now approaching my five years without fail.”
#NHS #England #offer #potentially #lifesaving #drug #aggressive #breast #cancer