22nd November 2018

New lung cancer treatment approved by NICE

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More than 3000 patients in England are estimated to be eligible for a new life-extending lung cancer treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab, with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy be made available on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) as an option for people with untreated non-small cell lung cancer, whose tumours have no epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) or anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) positive mutations.

The recommendation comes after results from a clinical trial showed the combination therapy gave patients nearly four additional months without their cancer progressing. This is compared with standard treatment of pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy.

This decision makes pembrolizumab the first immunotherapy to be made available to NHS patients in England when used in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of advanced NSCLC.

According to researchers, the results are particularly impressive for patients with low PDL1 expressions who, until now, have not been able to access immunotherapy without having conventional chemotherapy first.

Meindert Boysen, director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said:

“Over the past two decades there has been few improvements for people with this type of lung cancer so we are pleased to support access to this new option via the Cancer Drug Fund, and keen to see further data on its effectiveness as it becomes available.

“NICE recommends that this treatment is given for a maximum of two years, because it is thought that patients do not need to continue treatment beyond this point to achieve the benefits. NICE will consider this point when we review the additional evidence.” Paula Chadwick, Chief Executive, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said,

“We welcome this decision by NICE as it opens up access to immunotherapy to a group of lung cancer patients who were not previously eligible. 

“It’s positive news, not just for those patients who may now benefit from pembrolizumab, but for all people living with lung cancer. It clearly demonstrates the excellent work being carried out by researchers worldwide to expand the range of treatment options”.