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NHS England to offer ‘potentially life-saving’ drug for aggressive breast cancer | Breast cancer

NHS England to offer ‘potentially life-saving’ drug for aggressive breast cancer | Breast cancer

Women with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer have been given access to a “potentially life-saving” drug after NHS the bosses made a deal with their manufacturer.

Up to 1,600 women a year will be able to receive pembrolizumab, which has the potential to make some of those taking it completely cancer-free, according to the NHS England he said.

The drug – a form of immunotherapy – will be given to women with triple-negative breast cancer, for which there are currently few treatments. Patients with triple-negative breast cancer have a shorter survival time than women with other forms of the disease, and it is especially common in people under 40, black women and those who have inherited the BRCA gene.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said the introduction of an “innovative, potentially life-saving treatment for one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer” was “fantastic news” and represented a “very significant moment for women”.

“It will give hope to those diagnosed and prevent cancer from progressing, allowing people to live normal, healthy lives,” she added.

National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) approved the drug in the final draft of the guidelines after successful negotiations over its price between NHS England and its manufacturer, the pharmaceutical company MSB.

The health watchdog, which advises the NHS on which treatments are effective and are value for money, gave the go-ahead for the drug to be used alongside chemotherapy to shrink breast tumors before surgery or on its own after surgery in adults with triple-negative early breast cancer who have high the risk of its recurrence or locally advanced breast cancer.

“This new treatment has the potential to make any cancer detectable at the time of surgery disappear, meaning patients may face less invasive breast-conserving surgery,” said Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now.

“Furthermore, by significantly reducing the likelihood that breast cancer will recur or spread to other parts of the body where it becomes an incurable secondary breast cancer, this treatment brings forward hope that more lives can potentially be saved from this devastating disease.”

Nice said the drug is an “extra lifeline” for those with triple-negative breast cancer. It accounts for about one in five breast cancer diagnoses, but about one in four deaths from it.

“Evidence from clinical trials shows that adding pembrolizumab to chemotherapy before surgery and then continuing to use pembrolizumab alone after surgery increases the chance that the cancer will go away. It also increases the time before any cancer reappears,” Nice said.

But it says: “It is not clear whether pembrolizumab increases people’s life expectancy.”

Nice added that the fact that triple-negative breast cancer has a higher risk of recurrence than other forms of the disease, as well as the lack of proven treatments, helped convince the approval.

The drug has been shown to be effective in clinical trials in Britain. Lauren Sirey, an NHS nurse who received it as part of a trial at Barts Health in London, is cancer-free almost five years after receiving it in 2017.

“Four months before my partner and I were to get married, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 31. I have been offered the chance to take part in a clinical trial and I am delighted to hear that this treatment is now approved for use on the NHS,” she said.

“This treatment allowed me to make a full recovery and I am now approaching my five-year mark of complete remission.”



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