The NHS will be offering around 100 women a year with advanced breast cancer the chance to be able to try a new type of immunotherapy.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has overturned its draft rejection of Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and has said women can take the drug in combination with chemotherapy.
The drug is for women with incurable secondary triple negative breast cancer and its aim is to slow disease progression – buying patients extra time.
She added: “Following its worrying provisional rejection by Nice earlier this year, the reversal of this decision now brings hope to eligible women for whom it could bring precious additional time before their disease progresses and more months to live and spend time with loved ones and doing what matters most to them.
Keytruda is used with chemotherapy in women with triple negative breast cancer whose tumours express PD-L1 with a combined positive score (CPS – the number of PD-L1 positive cells in relation to tumour cells) greater than or equal to 10.
They must also not have had chemotherapy for advanced disease, and they qualify for treatment if surgery is not possible to remove the tumour.
Nice said that following its previous rejection, manufacturer Merck Sharp and Dohme proposed that the drug combination should be restricted to people whose tumours express PD-L1 with a CPS greater than or equal to 10.
This meant Nice was able to look again and pass the drug, which works by blocking the activity of PD-L1, helping the person’s own immune cells to attack cancer.
It comes as a poll for Breast Cancer Now of 1,007 women with breast cancer found 44% said the disease negatively affected their body image and 25% said the same for their sense of identity.
Overall, 37% said their diagnosis worsened their mental health and self-esteem.