The first immunotherapy treatment for lung cancer has been launched in the UK.
Nivolumab, which early trials have shown can help patients live significantly longer, is the first in a new class of medicines, called PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors, to be approved for lung cancer.
The drug has been licensed for a very specific group of patients, who have advanced or metastatic, squamous, non-small cell lung cancer and who have previously had chemotherapy.
According to the manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb, trials showed the new drug almost double one-year-survival rates in this group of patients when compared to current chemotherapy treatments. The results showed that treating this group of patients with nivolumab resulted in a one-year overall survival rate of 42% vs. 24% for docetaxel.
Although the drug has now been officially licensed by the European Commission, it will now have to go through the NHS approval system before it is available for patients.
Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “This is a significant development for this very specific group of people with lung cancer and offers hope where there was very little before.
“Immunotherapy is an exciting new area in the treatment of lung cancer and I hope this will be a game changer when it comes to successfully treating these people.
“I am very concerned that patients are not yet able to access this drug via the NHS and this needs to be remedied as soon as possible. This is a devastating disease and these patients do not have time to wait.”