NHS England to offer ‘potentially life-saving’ drug for aggressive breast cancer | Breast cancer

NHS England to offer ‘potentially life-saving’ drug for aggressive breast cancer | Breast cancer

Women with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer have been given access to a “potentially life-saving” drug after NHS bosses made a deal with its manufacturer.

Up to 1,600 women a year will be able to receive pembrolizumab, which has the potential to make some of those taking it completely cancer-free, NHS England He said.

The drug – a form of immunotherapy – will be given to women with triple-negative breast cancer, for which there are currently several treatments. Triple-negative breast cancer patients have a shorter survival time than women with other forms of the disease, and the form is especially common in those under 40, black women and those who have inherited the BRCA gene.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said the introduction of an “innovative, potentially life-saving treatment for one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer” was “fantastic news” and represented “a hugely significant moment for women”.

“It will give hope to those diagnosed and prevent cancer from progressing, allowing people to live normal, healthy lives,” she added.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) approved the drug in the final draft of the guideline after successful negotiations over its price between NHS England and its manufacturer, the pharmaceutical company MSB.

The health watchdog, which advises the NHS on which treatments are effective and are value for money, gave the go-ahead for the drug to be used alongside chemotherapy to shrink breast tumors before surgery or on its own after surgery in adults with triple-negative early breast cancer who are at high risk of its recurrence or locally advanced breast cancer.

“This new treatment has the potential to make any cancer detectable before surgery disappear, meaning patients may then face less invasive breast-conserving surgery,” said Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now.

“Furthermore, by significantly reducing the likelihood of breast cancer coming back or spreading to other parts of the body where it becomes an incurable secondary breast cancer, this treatment brings forward hope that more lives will potentially be saved from this devastating disease.”

Nice said the drug is an “extra lifeline” for those with triple-negative breast cancer. It accounts for about one in five breast cancer diagnoses, but about one in four deaths from it.

“Evidence from clinical trials shows that adding pembrolizumab to chemotherapy before surgery, then continuing with pembrolizumab alone after surgery increases the chance that the cancer will go away. It also prolongs the time before any cancer comes back,” Nice said.

But it says, “It’s not clear whether pembrolizumab extends people’s lives.”

Nice added that the fact that triple-negative breast cancer has a higher risk of recurrence than other forms of the disease, and the lack of proven treatments, helped convince the approval.

The drug has been shown to be 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 to get married, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 31. I have been offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial and I am delighted to hear that this treatment is now approved for use in the NHS,” she said.

“This treatment allowed me to make a full recovery and I am now approaching my five year mark of full treatment.”


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