Lung cancer and sarcoma drugs now available via Cancer Drugs Fund

Thursday 6th July 2017
Pembrolizumab for lung cancer and olaratumab for sarcoma can now be prescribed to patients thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund. Image: Sage78 via iStock
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Early access to new drugs will be possible for patients with certain types of lung cancer and sarcoma after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved them on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).
 
As part of changes to appraisal processes made last year, selected drugs that show early indications of promise but have not yet been tested for long-term benefits can be approved for patient use.
 
Consequently, pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for lung cancer and olaratumab (Lartruvo) for sarcoma can now be made available at a discounted price under special arrangements between NHS England and the companies that market the drugs while further data is collected on their efficacy.
 
Pembrolizumab is used to treat advanced lung cancer for patients with specific protein and genetic markers and was recently recommended by NICE as a second line option. Some 1,400 people could benefit from being given the drug.
 
Around 44,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK every year and only around one in three live for at least a year afterwards, although prognosis does depend on the type of tumour and how far the disease has progressed before treatment begins.
 
Meanwhile, olaratumab has already been tested in trials and was found to give patients with sarcoma an additional 11.8 months of life, which is unprecedented so far in research for treatment of the disease. Around 450 people are set to benefit from being given the drug.
 
Sarcoma is a very rare type of cancer that can affect body tissues such as muscles, nerves and tendons that surround organs. Around ten people are diagnosed with it each day in the UK and it now makes up around one per cent of all cancer diagnoses.
 
People with advanced sarcoma usually only live for between 12 and 16 months after diagnosis, as it has often progressed to other parts of the body by the time symptoms begin to show up.
 
Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, said: "With companies working closely with us and NHS England we will continue to deliver on our promise to give people fast access to the most effective cancer drugs."
 
Written by James Puckle
 
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