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The drug, durvalumab, can double the overall time someone can survive with an aggressive form of lung cancer from two and a half to five years.
It stops the cancer from getting worse for more than two years – significantly longer than treatment with a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can only hold the disease at bay for around six months. This increases overall survival time and gives patients more precious moments with their loved ones.
Now the drug has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the NHS has sealed a deal with manufacturer AstraZeneca to begin rolling it out. The new treatment will be offered to more than 550 patients a year with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have already undergone both chemotherapy and radiotherapy concurrently.
The drug is given to patients every four weeks and only takes an hour to administer. It is delivered as an infusion into a vein and uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells with a specific protein known as PD-L1 by attaching to them. The immune system then attacks and kills these cells.
Dame Cally Palmer, National Cancer Director for NHS England said: “We are resolute in our ambition to fight the devastating effects of cancer and new pioneering treatments like durvalumab are a vital lifeline for people living with cancer – giving them more precious time with family and friends.
“Most of us know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and it can affect people of all walks of life. The NHS has continued to prioritise cancer care throughout the pandemic and I urge anyone with concerns about symptoms they might be experiencing to come forward without delay and get checked, either at your GP or at one of our mobile lung cancer scanning units”.
Blake Dark, Commercial Medicines Director for NHS England said: “The NHS is committed to getting patients the latest cutting-edge treatments and therapies to increase the life chances of people living with advanced cancers.
“This drug will be a huge boost for lung cancer patients across England and is also the latest in a long list of innovative, targeted cancer treatments secured by the NHS through a commercial agreement, making it good value for taxpayers too”.
Durvalumab, manufactured by the company AstraZeneca, was previously offered to NHS patients in 2019 through the Cancer Drugs Fund to enable further data to be collected on the drug’s clinical and cost effectiveness. This additional data has enabled NICE to make a final recommendation this week on its routine use in the NHS. In just over five years, more than 80,000 patients have benefitted from faster access to one of more than 90 different cancer drugs.
Arun Krishna, Head of Oncology, AstraZeneca UK said: “We are delighted that NHS England will offer durvalumab for routine use in England. Our priority now is to make strides in the curative intent setting by working with clinicians to routinely embed durvalumab into the treatment pathway to deliver better survival outcomes for lung cancer patients”.
Durvalumab is the latest in a series of new treatments for lung cancer made available for NHS patients, including revolutionary ‘death star’ mutation drug, sotorasib, the targeted tablet treatment, mobocertinib, and new immunotherapy, atezolizumab; all of which were fast-tracked to NHS patients following agreements reached with individual pharmaceutical companies.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This is yet another example of how the NHS is pioneering innovative treatments to give cancer patients the best possible care and more time with their loved ones.
“We continue to improve outcomes for cancer patients across England and our upcoming 10-Year Cancer Plan will set out how we will lead Europe in cancer care”.