Breast Cancer

Thousands to benefit as NHS fast-track 100th cancer drug

Thousands of breast cancer patients are set to benefit from a life-extending drug that has been fast-tracked onto the frontline of NHS patient care.

The drug, called alpelisib, will be used in conjunction with the hormone therapy fulvestrant, targeting the gene that causes fast-growing tumours.

The drug works by blocking the rogue gene’s ability to help cancer cells survive – a key study showed that in half of the people who received this specific drug combination after initial treatment, their cancer did not grow for six months.

Up to 3,000 people every single year with a specific type of advanced breast cancer will benefit from the new treatment; alpelisib is the 100th cancer drug fast-tracked to NHS patients under the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), with 80,000 people better off as a result of a CDF drug in just over five years.

John Stewart, NHS National Director for Specialised Commissioning, said: “In just over five years, more than 80,000 people have benefitted from earlier access to a range of cancer drugs, with people in England having access to nearly one third more cancer drugs compared to the European average, and this latest innovative new treatment will help up to 3,000 more to live a better quality of life.

“This life-extending breast cancer treatment is the 100th to be rapidly made available to NHS patients thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund, and will help people with secondary breast cancer to live longer.”

Before prescribing this treatment however, clinicians will also take a small amount of tissue from the patient’s tumour and send it to the NHS Genomic Laboratory Hub, where a genomic test will be carried out with the hope of identifying the tumour and then allocating a treatment plan, if possible.

If this new test reveals a mutation in a gene called PIK3CA then further targeted treatment can be offered to those not responding to other medicines. A blood test is also on hand to identify the specific mutation causing the cancer.

Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England and the Senior Responsible Officer for NHS Genomics said: “This is another powerful example of how genomic testing is supporting access to precision medicine for individuals living with cancer and allowing them to access more effective treatments on the NHS.

“Genomics is helping to revolutionise cancer care and the NHS Genomic Medicine Service is leading the way in delivering the latest genomic technologies to deliver better outcomes for patients.”

This is just the latest cancer innovation the NHS are delivering to their patients, with the life-extending drug durvalumab, practice-changing radiotherapy techniques, and revolutionary new trials all coming before it.

More information about the new drug is available here.

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