‘Game changing’ cancer drugs to be fast-tracked

The NHS is preparing to fast-track the introduction of ‘game changing’ new cancer drugs that target tumours according to their genetic make-up rather than where they originate in the body.

Speaking to health leaders in Manchester, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens will say that the health service must be ready to fast-track tumour agnostic drugs in the same way as the CAR-T cancer therapy. Patients in England were among the first in the world to benefit from the treatment earlier this year.

NHS England say that the revolutionary treatments – known as ‘tumour agnostic’ drugs – can be used against a wide range of cancers and could offer hope to patients with rare forms of the disease that may previously have been untreatable. The first of the new cancer drugs are set to come on to the market within months.

Around 850 patients a year could benefit from the frontrunners. NHS England will now work with the industry to step up preparations and bring together different cancer specialists to ensure all patients who could benefit from tumour agnostic drugs are identified, and embed the tests for these genomic mutations within existing cancer pathways.

Speaking at the Confed19 event Simon Stevens is expected to say: “This exciting new breakthrough in cancer treatment is the latest example of how the NHS can lead the way in the new era of personalised cancer care. The benefits for patients, in particular children, of being able to treat many different types of cancers with one drug is potentially huge, helping them to lead longer, healthier lives.

“NHS patients in England were at the forefront of the CAR-T revolution and I want to make sure that they are also among the first in the world to benefit from these treatments. Preparations are underway to make sure the NHS can adopt these next generation of treatments, but manufacturers need to set fair and affordable prices so treatments can be made available to those who need them.”

Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical research, said: “These new cancer drugs absolutely represent the kind of exciting innovation the NHS should be looking to fast-track. And it’s great that the NHS recognises the huge potential of these emerging approaches. The concept of focusing on specific mutations that drive a person’s disease, versus the cancer type, is a fascinating one.

“Whilst this approach may not work in all cases, where the weight of clinical evidence supports the approach, this could open up opportunities for cancer treatment that we wouldn’t have had 20 years ago. It’s essential that patients are offered routine genetic analysis of their tumours, no matter where they live, to match them to appropriate treatments, such as these drugs. If approved by NICE, tumour agnostic drugs could give hope to children and young people with cancer, patients with rare cancer types, and their families.”

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