28th May 2020

New treatment for people with small cell lung cancer

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People with small cell lung cancer in England and Wales will soon have access to a new treatment option after the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reversed its decision about the immunotherapy, atezolizumab.

The treatment, which has been recommended in combination with carboplatin and etoposide chemotherapy, will be available to NHS patients with untreated extensive small cell lung cancer (ES-SCLC).

Research of the combination treatment showed progression-free survival improved by 5.2 months compared to 4.3 months with chemotherapy alone, as well as improved overall survival benefit. Given the early stages of the trial, long term benefits are still to be determined.

Whilst we have seen significant improvements in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, there remains few treatment options for small cell lung cancer, so this decision is very welcomed.

Small cell lung cancer is the more aggressive form of the disease, so it is really encouraging to see these new treatments, which have been a lifeline to many with non-small cell lung cancer, starting to have a positive impact on small cell lung cancer too and, ultimately, giving people more time with their loved ones.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Extensive small cell lung cancer accounts for 1 in 8 lung cancer cases in the UK, with around 2,400 living with the disease. It is estimated around 1,200 people will benefit from the new treatment.

NICE expects to publish its final guidance on atezolizumab for ES-SCLC in June 2020.