The NHS is seeking to be among the first health services in the world to adopt ‘tumour agnostic’ drugs, its Chief Executive Simon Stevens announced last week.
NHS England will seek to fast-track the introduction of these drugs once they gain licences, Stevens told the Confed19 conference in Manchester
The first drugs of this kind are NTRK inhibitors, which are currently waiting for EU market authorisation. NTRK fusion mutations are commonly found in a range of rare cancers including salivary tumours, secretory breast cancer and infantile fibrosarcoma – and also less frequently in common cancers. The NTRK fusion accelerates cancer growth, so it is hoped that NTRK inhibitors such as larotrectinib and entrectinib will shrink tumours.
The novel aspect of these treatments is that they are not designed with any specific tumour type in mind. Early clinical trials have shown that tumours respond to these drugs in two thirds to three quarters of the cancers tested.
The roll-out of these drugs will depend on the NHS reaching deals on prices with manufacturers. Stevens said that about 850 patients a year could benefit at first. Eligible patients will be identified by genetic testing of the tumours, which will be accelerated by a new NHS Genomic Medicine Service.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research at the charity Bloodwise, said: “Tumour agnostic treatments hold real potential to deliver kinder targeted treatments to people with rare blood cancers, including children, where evidence of the effectiveness of drugs can be built up more quickly in trials of people with different types of cancer.
“We welcome this further example of NHS innovation and look forward to working with NHS England to ensure that these and other advances, as well as whole genome sequencing, translate into better diagnosis and better outcomes for everyone with blood cancer in the future.”
Dany Bell from Macmillan Cancer Support, said the news was “exciting,” adding: “Of course, no new treatment can be safely administered without enough doctors and nurses with the right skills and resources to both deliver it and support patients through their treatment.
“We urgently need investment to support hardworking NHS staff to deliver the personalised care that the increasing number of people living with cancer need.”
Mr Stevens said: “This exciting new breakthrough in cancer treatment is the latest example of how the NHS can lead the way in the new era of personalised cancer care.
“The benefits for patients, in particular children, of being able to treat many different types of cancers with one drug is potentially huge, helping them to lead longer, healthier lives.
“Preparations are under way to make sure the NHS can adopt these next generation of treatments, but manufacturers need to set fair and affordable prices so treatments can be made available to those who need them.”
Source: NHS England - https://www.england.nhs.uk/2019/06/fast-track-game-changing-cancer-drugs/
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