New NHS treatment for cervical cancer

A new life-extending treatment for advanced cervical cancer will be made available to hundreds of NHS patients.

The immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) is the first new addition to NHS treatment for incurable cervical cancer for 14 years.

Around 400 people are expected to benefit from the treatment over the next three years .

The drug is already available on the NHS for the treatment of other cancers, including breast, bowel, lung, and skin. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has now approved it for certain patients with cervical cancer whose disease has not responded to other treatments.

Given in combination with standard chemotherapy, the injected drug works by stimulating the body’s immune system to fight the cancer cells, targeting and blocking a specific protein (called PD-L1) on the surface of certain immune cells which then seek out and destroy the cancerous cells.

Data from clinical trials indicates that adding pembrolizumab to standard chemotherapy may help extend a patient's life by up to eight months on average (compared to chemotherapy alone).

NHS England’s director of specialised commissioning and interim commercial medicines Director, John Stewart, said: “After nearly 15 years without a new treatment for this type of advanced cervical cancer, this first immunotherapy marks a significant step forward that will provide hundreds of people with precious time with their loved ones.

“This is the 243rd treatment offered through the Cancer Drugs Fund that enables the NHS to provide faster access to cutting-edge cancer treatments for patients, while further data about its long term clinical benefit can be collected”

NHS national director for cancer Dame Cally Palmer said: “Making this life-extending drug available today is a significant moment for women with advanced cervical cancer, which disproportionately affects younger women, allowing them to spend more precious time with loved ones and enjoy a better and longer quality of life.

“This has been made possible thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund, which allows the NHS to get early access to the latest cancer treatments, and is just the latest example of NHS England using its commercial capabilities to deliver on the NHS Long Term Plan commitment to provide patients with the latest cutting-edge treatments for cancer.”

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay