The NHS will roll out an innovative, potentially life-saving treatment for one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer thanks to a new drug deal.
Up to 1,600 women a year affected by high risk triple-negative breast cancer are set to benefit from the confidential deal struck by the NHS and the manufacturer. Pembrolizumab (brand name, Keytruda), used in combination with chemotherapy, reduces the chances of breast cancer progressing by almost two fifths.
The drug works by stimulating the body’s immune system to fight the cancer cells – it targets and blocks a specific protein on the surface of certain immune cells which then seek out and destroy the cancerous cells.
Delivered directly into the bloodstream every three to six weeks for around one year, the treatment will be funded immediately by the NHS to give access to eligible patients.
Triple-negative breast cancer affects around 8,000 women a year – accounting for 15% of all breast cancer cases. It is challenging to treat with a shorter survival time than most other breast cancers and disproportionately affects women under 40 and those from black backgrounds.
This will be the 25th breast cancer treatment fast-tracked to patients through funding from the Cancer Drugs Fund and the second treatment for triple negative breast cancer to be introduced this year on the NHS.
NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “This is a hugely significant moment for women – the NHS has struck a new deal to roll out a potentially life-saving drug for patients suffering with the most aggressive form of breast cancer that has been traditionally very difficult to treat.
“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.
“This is just the latest commercial drug deal that the NHS has struck for patients – once again highlighting the innovative treatments available at a price that represents good value for money for taxpayers.”
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published final draft guidance recommending the use of pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy on the NHS, following the commercial deal being struck.