4th February 2021

New combination treatment data offer further hope to those with lung cancer

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A potentially life-lengthening treatment for some people in England with non-squamous, non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is to be made available on the NHS.

The immunotherapy, pembrolizumab, has today [4th February 2021] been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for treatment with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy as a first-line option for untreated, metastatic lung cancer.

The news comes following new 4-year data presented at the World Conference on Lung Cancer shows improved survival rates for patients with non-squamous non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), whose tumours have no epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-positive or anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive mutations, and whether or not tumours are PD-L1 positive, after latest figures demonstrated efficacy for both patients with and without PD-L1 expression[i].

Prior to this regimen entering the Cancer Drugs Fund, only patients with the PD-L1 biomarker could access the immunotherapy. This latest announcement means patients will be able to receive a form of pembrolizumab either in combination with chemotherapy or in monotherapy regardless of PD-L1 expression.

The clinical evidence collected showed people having pembrolizumab combination for up to 2 years are likely to live longer than those who have pemetrexed platinum chemotherapy.[ii] 31% of patients who received the combination therapy, were still alive after 3 years compared to only 17% who were treated with standard chemotherapy.

Pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy regardless of PD-L1 biomarker status has been an important step forward for patients in a disease area where the majority of patients don’t typically survive more than 7-10 months from diagnosis.

Dr Riyaz Shah, Consultant Medical Oncologist
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, welcomes the news:

“At a time where there has been so much bad news, knowing that more patients will continue to have another life-lengthening treatment option is fantastic, especially in light of such positive results from this latest study presented at the World Conference on Lung Cancer.

“There’s no doubt the last year has been incredibly difficult for people with lung cancer, with most continuing to shield and unable to see loved ones. Life-lengthening treatments like this provide hope to so many that we can get through these dark and testing times and reunite with our loved ones again.”

Around 3,000 people will be eligible for this treatment in England.

[i] Page 5 of FAD
[ii] Page 2 of FAD