NHS lung cancer patients will be the first in Europe to be offered a new drug which stops tumours growing.
It is expected to benefit around 600 NHS lung cancer patients a year in England, which will start in the next few weeks as a result of an early-access deal with the manufacturer Amgen.
This cutting-edge therapy known as Sotorasib follows on from successful clinical trials, which proved to stop lung cancer growing for seven months.
The drug’s adoption by the NHS follows a 40-year search for a treatment for the mutation on the KRAS gene, present in a quarter of all tumours.
It has often been referred to as the “Death Star” because of its spherical appearance and impenetrable nature.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, said: “The NHS has a strong track record of securing best value access to world-class treatments for our patients and this lung cancer drug, decades in the making, is the latest deal landed by the health service in England which will save lives.
“Cancer services have been prioritised throughout the pandemic and despite the unavoidable disruption caused by Covid, the NHS has put to good use the additional resources to help us respond, with the number of people getting treatment back to pre-pandemic levels.”
The treatment will be taken as a tablet, which binds with the KRAS G12C mutation and makes it inactive, stopping cell division and cancer growth.
It is the first treatment of its kind and could represent a major breakthrough in treatments for some of the world’s other types of cancers, including pancreatic and colorectal cancers.
It is the latest in a series of drug deals with NHS England. They most recently secured a deal for a cholesterol lowering jab which will be made available to hundreds of thousands of NHS patients. This is expected to prevent around 55,000 heart attacks in the next three years.
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS Clinical Director for Cancer said: “The NHS is committed to saving more lives from cancer through better diagnosis and treatment, with molecular testing through our genomics programme is increasingly important for selecting the best options for patients.
“This revolutionary treatment has taken decades of research to reach the clinic, and now that it is here this new targeted drug will be available for eligible people with lung cancer as quickly as possible thanks to this agreement.”
Interim NHS Chief Commercial Officer, Blake Dark said: “After 40 years of scientific research this drug marks a significant breakthrough in cancer treatment which is why the NHS has worked to secure to treatment for hundreds of eligible lung cancer patients.
“This is the latest rapid access agreement that places a truly innovative treatment in the hands of frontline NHS staff, supporting them to continue to deliver world-class patient care.”
It has been newly approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which will be offered to eligible lung cancer patients.
NHS England, NICE, and manufacturer Amgen reached an agreement to enable early access to the treatment for those eligible, on a budget-neutral basis to the NHS, while NICE completes its ongoing appraisal.
Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Clinician, said: “Sotorasib is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment in 20 years, targeting a cancer gene that was previously untargetable and built on decades of laboratory research that’s unravelled cancer’s inner workings.
“This medicine expands our list of effective precision therapies in lung cancer that are helping to improve survival for patients with limited options. It’s great news that patients in England will now benefit from this novel treatment.”
Ms Pritchard most recently urged people to come forward and contact their GP with any cancer symptoms, as part of the latest phase of the Help Us to Help You campaign.
The campaign was developed following research that showed that 60% of people were worried about burdening the NHS in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
This is the second Orbis-licenced drug the NHS in England have made available through a national access agreement, after a similar NHS agreement for osimertinib that was reached in May.