10th September 2019

Combination lung cancer treatment approved for patients in Scotland

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The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has confirmed that another immunotherapy treatment in combination with certain conventional chemotherapy drugs is to be made available on the NHS in Scotland.

It means that, for the first time, patients across the UK with this form of lung cancer will have access to pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy, rather than having to wait to finish a course of chemotherapy. 

This decision makes pembrolizumab, which also has the trade name Keytruda, the first immunotherapy to be approved for use as a first line treatment, in combination with chemotherapies carboplatin and either paclitaxel or nab-paclitaxel, for patients in Scotland with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in adults.

The decision comes after pembrolizumab, in combination with platinum-based doublet chemotherapy, was associated with a progression-free survival and overall survival benefit over platinum-based doublet chemotherapy in patients with treatment naïve metastatic squamous NSCLC.

Our response to the Scottish Medicines Consortium’s decision:

“We are delighted whenever a new lung cancer treatment is approved. It means those eligible have another treatment option, another way to live well with lung cancer for longer.

These new treatments are having a huge impact on people’s lives. They are keeping families together for longer and we will continue to campaign for more access to these life-lengthening treatments.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

The SMC has accepted pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy for the initial treatment of metastatic squamous NSCLC in adults. This acceptance is restricted to use for up to 2 years, in combination with two types of chemotherapy (carboplatin and paclitaxel) in patients:

-whose tumours either do not produce PD-L1 or produce low levels of PD-L1; or

-where it has not been possible to measure the amount of PD-L1 produced

About pembrolizumab

Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy, a type of lung cancer treatment that stimulates the immune system to fight the cancer.

Some cancer cells produce proteins that switch off certain immune cells (T-cells). Pembrolizumab attaches to these T-cells, which stops the cancer switching them off, and helps the immune system fight the cancer.