New Skin Cancer Drug Approved for Use on the NHS
A new drug for advanced skin cancer has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Experts say pembrolizumab should be made available for widespread use on the NHS.
Pembrolizumab has already been fast-tracked through approval checks in England via the government’s Early Access to Medicines scheme. Trials have shown that the drug can stall and shrink tumours in advanced skin cancer patients, as it stimulates the body’s immune system, helping it to fight off the disease. It assists the immune system by blocking a biological pathway which cancer uses to disguise itself from attack.
NICE has approved the drug for use in patients who have already tried another drug called ipilimumab without success. It can be administered through a drip once every three weeks to keep advanced tumours at bay for as long as possible.
“It’s an exciting time for new types of cancer treatment using the immune system – we’ve got a number of new antibodies already available to treat patients and many more in trials,” says Professor Peter Johnson of Cancer Research UK. “Pembrolizumab is a great example of the progress we’re making in immune treatments for cancer, and we’re pleased that NICE have acted quickly to make it available on the NHS. The drug provides another option for patients with melanoma skin cancer which has spread around the body after they’ve tried other drugs.”
Life sciences minister George Freeman says: “This is welcome news for the thousands of patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year, who can now be treated with this life-enhancing medicine.”