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Groundbreaking cancer treatment now available in England as NHS strikes discount deal

A cancer immunotherapy used to treat patients with aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma is now available in England after NHS England struck a discounted deal.

The news comes just after Theresa May announced a new cancer strategy for the NHS which will see “a step change in how we diagnose cancer” and improve survival rates.

The treatment, axicabtagene ciloleucel, is a type of immune-boosting treatment called CAR-T therapy, which sees a patient’s immune cells modified in a lab before being reintroduced to attack cancer cells.

It will be offered to patients who have already had two or more different types of treatment for two types of aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The treatment – which normally costs £300,000 per patient – was turned down in August by NICE for being too expensive and because the benefits, compared to chemotherapy, were not known.

Now, however, NHS England has cut a deal with the treatment’s manufacturer for a confidential discount, which will be made available via the Cancer Drugs Fund.

According to NHS England, up to 200 patients a year could benefit from the treatment.

In a clinical trial, eight in 10 saw the treatment take effect and half of these people were cancer-free after six months. However, over half the patients suffered serious side effects.  

Rose Gray, Cancer Research UK’s policy manager, said NHS England’s announcement was “fantastic news” and means patients in England will be the first in Europe to get the treatment.

“It’s great that NHS England, NICE and the company have worked together to make this complex and highly personalised treatment available so quickly, through the Cancer Drugs Fund,” added Gray. “This will mean patients can get this treatment quickly, while more information is gathered on its long-term effectiveness.”

Last month, the NHS approved another cancer treatment for children in what was one of the fastest funding approvals in the history of the NHS.


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