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8th May 2021

New drug that halves the risk of lung cancer returning approved for use in England

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A new lung cancer treatment which halves the risk of recurrence after surgery is to be rolled out by NHS England.

Patients with early stage EGFR+ non-small cell lung cancer who have undergone surgery will now be offered the targeted therapy, Osimertinib, to reduce the risk of their cancer returning.

Targeted therapy is now a well recognised treatment for late stage disease. This latest announcement is the first time such a drug will be used to treat early stage lung cancer.

The announcement comes after latest figures from a clinical trial found that around 90% of patients who received this pioneering treatment remained disease-free after two years – compared to more than four in ten who hadn’t received the new therapy.

Paula Chadwick is the chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. She is delighted by the decision:

Lung cancer is a very aggressive disease and sadly, even when it is caught early, it can come back. So, the fact there is now a new treatment which can significantly reduce that risk of recurrence for people with EGFR+ lung cancer is incredibly encouraging, and hopefully marks the beginning of a new treatment path for other forms of the disease as well.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive

What is EGFR+ lung cancer?

Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) is a type of protein found on the surface of cancer cells, as well as normal cells. Mutations in the EGFR gene cause cancer cells to have too much of the EGFR protein, which leads them to grow faster.

EGFR-positive non-small cell lung cancer is considered to be a genetically distinct form of lung cancer, which is detected in about 10-15% of cases of the disease. It is most common in people with adenocarcinoma, non-smokers, people of Asian origin and women.

In the UK, patients diagnosed with NSCLC are now routinely tested for gene mutations such as EGFR.

Paula concludes:

“For the last few years, we have witnessed the remarkable impact targeted therapy such as Osimertinib are having on people with late stage lung cancer. We know patients who are four, five, six years plus living well with lung cancer because of these new treatments.

The fact that this drug is now able to halve the risk of recurrence in those diagnosed early once again shows just how far we have come in the treatment of lung cancer and gives those diagnosed with the disease continued hope.

As the only UK charity solely dedicated to supporting everyone affected by lung cancer, we will continue to campaign for access for more treatments for every form of this disease so those diagnosed early remain cancer-free and those with late stage disease can continue to live well for much, much longer.”