A new targeted therapy, alectinib, may soon be available to NHS England patients with a rare type of lung cancer that predominantly affects younger people and non-smokers.
NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is endorsing the drug, within its marketing authorisation, as a treatment option for patients with ALK-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This affects around 925 people in England.
Alectinib has demonstrated substantial improvements in delaying cancer growth in these patients. It has also shown significant improvements in preventing and delaying cancer spread into the brain.
An ongoing clinical trial has shown alectinib can be effective in delaying disease progression. While it is not curative, the aim of alectinib is to target two specific enzymes, anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) and the RET proto-oncogene. Inhibiting the ALK enzyme blocks cell signalling pathways, which kills off tumour cells.
Alectinib will be the third drug available to patients with advanced ALK positive NSCLC, after crizotinib and ceritinib; a fourth drug, called brigatinib, is currently being assessed by NICE for use in a second-line setting.
Each of these therapies offer patients fresh hope of more time and better quality of life.
Paula Chadwick, the charity’s chief executive, said,
“2018 has already seen the arrival of several new treatments for patients with advanced stage lung cancer and we are pleased to welcome another option for ALK positive patients.
Many of them are already benefitting from crizotinib, so the addition of another effective targeted therapy for this group of people represents a further significant advance.
It’s important that people with NSCLC are properly tested because, if they are found to be ALK positive, they can receive one or other of these targeted therapies which can, in many cases, prolong life.”