Lung cancer patients could survive twice as long after NHS approves ‘pioneering’ drug

·2-min read
A tomography scan of a patient's lungs
A tomography scan of a patient's lungs

Lung cancer patients could survive twice as long after a “pioneering” drug was approved on the NHS.

Around 550 patients a year with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have already undergone both chemotherapy and radiotherapy will benefit from the new treatment.

Clinical trials of Durvalumab, manufactured by AstraZeneca, found it can double the overall time someone can survive with the aggressive form of lung cancer from two and a half to five years.

NHS England reached a deal with the manufacturer to roll out the drug after it was approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Nice said it recommended the treatment for use after clinical evidence found not only does it increase survival time for patients, but also the time it takes for the cancer to progress.

NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer, accounting for around 85 to 90 per cent of cases.

Around 48,500 new lung cancer cases are identified every year in the UK.

Durvalumab is administered once a month via infusion into a vein, and the treatment takes up to an hour.

‘Vital lifeline for people living with cancer’

The drug uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells with a protein known as PD-L1 by attaching to them and killing them.

It stops the cancer from getting worse for more than two years, significantly longer than chemotherapy and radiotherapy combined.

Dame Cally Palmer, national cancer director for NHS England, said: “We are resolute in our ambition to fight the devastating effects of cancer and new pioneering treatments like Durvalumab are a vital lifeline for people living with cancer - giving them more precious time with family and friends.”

Blake Dark, commercial medicines director for NHS England said: “This drug will be a huge boost for lung cancer patients across England and is also the latest in a long list of innovative, targeted cancer treatments secured by the NHS through a commercial agreement, making it good value for taxpayers too.”

It was previously offered to patients in 2019 through the Cancer Drugs Fund which enabled further data to be collected on the drug’s clinical and cost effectiveness.

Arun Krishna, head of oncology, AstraZeneca UK, said: “We are delighted that NHS England will offer Durvalumab for routine use in England. Our priority now is to make strides in the curative intent setting by working with clinicians to routinely embed Durvalumab into the treatment pathway to deliver better survival outcomes for lung cancer patients.”

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