Hundreds of women with advanced womb cancer are to be offered a “lifeline” treatment after it was approved for NHS use.
NHS England said that it was rolling out a life-extending combination of drugs which can halt disease progression for twice as long as standard chemotherapy.
The health service said between 500 and 700 women will benefit every year.
It has agreed a commercial deal with two manufacturers for the drugs, which will be used in combination to treat advanced endometrial cancer.
The most common symptom of womb cancer is unusual vaginal bleeding. Less common symptoms are pain or discomfort in the pelvic area or pain during sex.
— NHS (@NHSuk) September 28, 2022
Trials have shown at pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda, and lenvatinib, also known as Lenvima, used together can give women more time without their cancer progressing and a longer overall survival.
Standard chemotherapy halts disease progression for three and a half months but the combination of these drugs can stop cancer spread for seven months.
Women who took the drug also appeared to survive for longer compared to current standard treatment, 19 months compared to 12 months.
The drugs work together to stimulate the body’s immune system and kill off cancer cell growth.
Women offered the treatment will take two pills of lenvatinib, manufactured by Eisai UK, once a day and pembrolizumab, manufactured by MSD UK, given intravenously every three or six weeks.
“Most cancers of the womb can be cured if we catch them early, but for the women whose cancers can’t be dealt with in this way it is great news that we now have a more effective treatment that can help them to live longer and better,” said NHS national cancer director Professor Peter Johnson.
Advanced womb cancer patient Grace Teeling, 33, who is originally from Bristol, said: “I have been incredibly fortunate to receive treatment for the past two years and I had a really good response, which means there is currently no evidence of cancer on my recent scans.
“It has also enabled me to thrive despite having an advanced and incurable cancer diagnosis.
“I am able to work, travel, socialise and exercise, including paddleboarding, which I may not have been able to do on chemotherapy.
“I am delighted others will now be able to access this treatment as I don’t think I would be alive today if I hadn’t.”
Professor Emma Crosbie, chairwoman of trustees of Peaches Womb Cancer Trust, said: “This innovative new treatment regimen will benefit patients with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer, who currently have very few effective anti-cancer treatments available to them.
“Every year, many people are facing a diagnosis of advanced or recurrent womb cancer, and the frightening reality of very few treatment options that can improve their survival and quality of life.
“Those affected by womb cancer deserve more treatment options, but we hope that this is just the first step towards wider availability of more effective treatment options for those affected by this devastating cancer.”
The treatment combination was initially rejected in draft guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), it has now been approved for NHS use.
Helen Knight, director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said: “There are currently few treatments for advanced endometrial cancer so this combination therapy is an important addition, providing women with the hope of valuable additional time with their loved ones.”