A new treatment for some people with a type of non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) will now be routinely available on the NHS in England, following its approval by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The decision means the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda), in combination with the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel, will continue to be an option for adults with untreated, squamous non small cell lung cancer that’s spread to other parts of the body.
The combination was previously available to people in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund, which gives people access to innovative treatment while more data is collected on their long-term benefits.
“From supporting patients throughout their lung cancer journey, we understand how devastating a lung cancer diagnosis is,” said Lorraine Dallas, Director of Prevention Information and Support at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. “That is why we welcome this treatment option.
Having ways to manage their cancer and maintain their quality of life in the face of uncertainty is valuable.”
The decision follows the approval last year of pembrolizumab alongside a different combination of chemotherapy drugs, pemetrexed and cisplatin, to treat those with a different type of non small cell lung cancer.
This treatment combination was made available through the Cancer Drugs Fund after initial trial data indicated that adding pembrolizumab increased survival for people with untreated, squamous non small cell lung cancer that’s spread to other parts of the body.
Further analysis has showed that people received pembrolizumab lived on average for 17.1 months, compared to 11.6 months for those who only received chemotherapy. Those who received pembrolizumab in their treatment also experienced more time without their cancer progressing.
“The combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy used in this trial, which has now been commissioned for routine use on the NHS in England, is a major breakthrough for this subtype of lung cancer, which until now has had few treatment options, poor prognosis and relatively little positive research compared to other forms of lung cancer,” said Dr Toby Talbot, consultant oncologist at Royal Cornwall Hospital.
Making the treatment available to more people
Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy that aims to boost the immune system’s ability to recognise and kill cancer cells. It works by blocking a molecule found on immune cells – called PD-1 – from talking to cancer cells by attaching to a protein known as PD-L1.