New cervical cancer drug could extend patients' lives by eight months

·2-min read

Patients with advanced cervical cancer could be given eight more months to live after the first new treatment for 14 years was approved by the NHS.

An immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda, will be made available immediately and benefit around 400 people over the next three years, under a fast-track drug deal.

The treatment is already used on the NHS for several other cancers, including breast, bowel, lung and skin.

It has now been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for some patients with cervical cancer whose disease has not responded to other treatments.

Clinical trials have shown that adding pembrolizumab to standard treatment (chemotherapy) may help to extend patients’ lives by up to eight months on average.

The injected drug works by stimulating the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cells, by targeting a specific protein on the surface of certain immune cells which then seek out and kill the cancerous cells.

Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in England, while around 850 die from the disease every year in the UK.

The new treatment will be given via the Cancer Drugs Fund, making it immediately available to patients, while further evidence on the exact survival benefits is collected and analysed.

It is the first new drug to be approved for incurable cervical cancer on the NHS for 14 years.

'Treatments are far too limited'

Samantha Dixon, the chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Today’s announcement that pembrolizumab will be available in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund is fantastic news.

“Treatments are far too limited for those living with advanced cervical cancer and this provides patients with valuable options, hope and most importantly time.

“Cervical cancer affects women of all ages, many are young. They have families, children, jobs, caring responsibilities. Pembrolizumab can slow the progression of cervical cancer and the impact of this on those who are eligible for the treatment cannot be understated.”

Dame Cally Palmer, the NHS national director for cancer, 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.”