A DRUG that can help breast cancer ‘disappear’ has been approved for use on the NHS.
Around 1,600 patients who have triple negative breast cancer will be offered pembrolizumab to take alongside other treatment options.
Triple negative breast cancer is less common but a more aggressive type of breast cancer.
It affects around 8,000 women a year and accounts for around 15 per cent of all breast cancer cases, the NHS says.
It’s more common among younger patients, black women and people who have the BRCA1 gene.
Used alongside chemotherapy, the NHS says it can reduce the chances of the breast cancer progressing by almost two fifths.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said it’s a hugely significant moment for women.
“It is fantastic news for around 1,600 women across the country each year who have either been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer or will be in the coming years – it will give hope to those who are diagnosed, and prevent the cancer from progressing allowing people to live normal, healthy, lives,” she said.
The drug work by stimulating the body’s immune system to fight the cancer cells.
It does this by targeting a specific protein on the surface of certain immune cells which then seek out and destroy the cancerous cells.
It’s delivered to patients directly through the bloodstream every three to six weeks over a year.
Charity Breast Cancer Now, today said it was ‘delighted’ by the news that the drug will be recommended for routine use on the NHS.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now said the treatment must now also be assessed by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) so that even more women across the UK have the chance to benefit from it.
“It’s fantastic news that immunotherapy pembrolizumab has been recommended for routine use on the NHS as a treatment option for an estimated 1,600 eligible patients with primary triple negative breast cancer.
“This less common but often more aggressive type of breast cancer is more common in women with an inherited BRCA gene, women aged under 40 and black women, and the risk of triple negative breast cancer returning and spreading to other parts of the body in the first few years after treatment is higher than for other types of breast cancer.
“Yet, for far too long, patients with this type of breast cancer have faced the frightening reality of limited treatment options.
“This new treatment can potentially lead to any detectable cancer disappearing by the time of surgery, meaning patients will then possibly face less invasive, breast-conserving surgery.
“Furthermore, by significantly reducing the likelihood of breast cancer recurring or spreading to other parts of the body where it becomes incurable secondary breast cancer, this treatment brings precious hope of more lives potentially being saved from this devastating disease,” Baroness Morgan said.
NHS England says it has already struck a deal with the manufacturer in order to get the drug to patients in a timely fashion.
NHS director of specialised commissioning John Stewart said this latest deal showcases the power of the health service to agree deals for the latest medicines and treatments for patients.
“Pembrolizumab is the second drug the NHS has secured for women with triple-negative breast cancer this year, and just the latest in a series of commercial drug deals struck by the NHS to ensure patients have access to the best possible treatments,” he added.