07 September 2018

NHS England has announced that children and young people with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) are to have access to CAR-T therapy on the NHS.

The groundbreaking treatment is to be offered through centres in London, Manchester and Newcastle, and is expected to be the first in a wave of personalised cancer treatments available on the NHS.

NHS England secured a commercial deal with manufacturer Novartis within ten days of the treatment gaining European marketing authorisation, making it one of the fastest funding approvals in NHS history.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, from charity Bloodwise, said: “CAR-T cell therapy is the most exciting advance in treatment for childhood leukaemia for decades. Intensive chemotherapy can now cure the vast majority of children but a significant number still tragically die every year because they do not respond to treatment.

“CAR-T cell therapy offers the genuine chance of a long-term cure for children who otherwise would have no other hope.”

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “CAR-T therapy is a true game changer, and NHS cancer patients are now going to be amongst the first in the world to benefit. Today’s approval is proof-positive that, in our 70th year, the NHS is leading from the front on innovative new treatments. This constructive fast-track negotiation also shows how responsible and flexible life sciences companies can succeed – in partnership with the NHS – to make revolutionary treatments available to patients.”

Tisagenlecleucel, which costs around £282,000 per patient at its full list price, is licenced to treat patients up to 25 years old with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) that is refractory, in relapse post-transplant or in second or later relapse. Patients in trials had an average age of 11.

The process of producing such a treatment is immensely complex and preparations are in their final stages. The first three NHS hospitals to go through the international accreditation process for the provision of CAR-T therapy for children are in London, Manchester and Newcastle. Subject to passing accreditation requirements the first treatments could begin in a matter of weeks.

Cancer survival in this country is now at an all-time high with 7,000 more people surviving cancer compared with three years ago, and the NHS is playing a leading role in the development and adoption of cutting edge technology in a new era of personalised medicine. So far, CAR-T has only been available to patients in Europe through clinical trials.”

Source: NHS England

Related: A revolutionary leukaemia treatment could soon be approved – here’s what it means for patients by BSH Member Dr Maria Teresa Esposito


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