New lung cancer treatment approved

A promising new lung cancer treatment will be available on the NHS through the Cancer Drugs Fund, thanks to a new NICE recommendation.

NICE has today (Thursday 28 March 2019) published draft final guidance recommending durvalumab (Imfinzi, AstraZeneca). It will be made available on the NHS in England immediately.

Around 165 people with locally advanced non-small-cell lung cancer, who have already had platinum-based chemoradiation, will be likely to receive the immunotherapy treatment in its first year.

Durvalumab is a PD-L1 inhibitor; it helps the body’s immune system to find and attack cancer cells, by blocking the PD-L1 protein which disguises cancer.

In a clinical trial people taking it went for an average of around two years without the disease progressing, versus 6 months for those without. The committee agreed that it was plausible that between 27% and 40% of people taking durvalumab would have five years of progression-free survival.

Today’s final appraisal document notes that clinical experts advised NICE’s independent technology appraisal committee that durvalumab was “a potentially curative treatment”. However, the committee agreed that clinical trial data were too immature for this to be certain.

The committee concluded that durvalumab had the potential to be cost-effective for NHS use, but that there was a high level of uncertainty in clinical evidence surrounding it. It was recommended for use within the Cancer Drugs Fund, while more data is collected.

Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, said: “The Cancer Drugs Fund gives patients faster access to the most promising cancer treatments. We are pleased to make this exciting new option available and look forward to seeing further data on the effectiveness of durvalumab.”

“After relatively few developments in the past two decades for people with this type of lung cancer, this decision will be particularly welcome to those with the condition, their families and the healthcare staff and experts working with them.”

Dr Alastair Greystoke, Honorary Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, said: “This is the biggest advance we’ve seen for a number of years in treating locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer. It’s fantastic news for patients and, working alongside chemotherapy and radiation, offers the potential for a cure and the best treatment possible.”

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