NHS England sanctions new breast cancer treatment injection

NHS England has today sanctioned a faster, more comfortable method for giving Trastuzumab (Herceptin) to breast cancer patients. From the 24th September a new sub cutaneous (SC) form of the drug will be commissioned.  Herceptin SC will primarily be used to treat women with early breast cancer who currently get the drug with chemotherapy before or after surgery.

Until now Herceptin has been delivered intravenously which means patients receive the drug by intravenous drip and each treatment takes between two and three hours.  The revolutionary new sub cutaneous formulation Herceptin is given by an injection under the skin which takes just two to five minutes to administer. Patients will need to stay in hospital for around an hour and a half after the injection to be monitored, but it will half the time for the patient and be a considerably more comfortable treatment.

Peter Clark Chair of NHS England’s Chemotherapy Clinical Reference Group and an oncologist at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust said:

“The new subcutaneous formulation of trastuzumab will mean that women who are being treated for early breast cancer can have a much less invasive treatment than the current intravenous treatment. This will be of benefit to patients as less time is spent receiving treatment and it is a more comfortable form of receiving this drug.  The faster treatment also frees up the time of highly trained cancer nurses to give care to patients on the ward.

“This innovative new form of treatment is certainly to be welcomed”.

As well as being less invasive for the patient, the new formulation of Herceptin will save time for nurses and hospital pharmacies in both its preparation and administration. This will free up specialist cancer nurses and hospital pharmacists at a time when pressure on chemotherapy facilities continue to rise.

The sub cutaneous form of Herceptin is also expected to save costs to the NHS as the drug is given as a fixed dose not dependent on patient size or weight.  It minimises waste and reduces overall drug costs.


  1. pat isherwood says:

    Which south UK hospitals offer subcutaneous herceptin please? I am due to start herceptin for early breast cancer this week and my veins are shot to pieces!

  2. Julie says:

    This injection may have been sanctioned by NHS England in September but I’m being told it is not available from the CCG in my area, even now we are well into December! The NHS Trust have trialed it, the nurses have been trained to give it and my oncologist is happy to prescribe it- what’s the hold up? I’m currently lobbying the CCG to be given it and this shouldn’t be the case. Could it be because herceptin IV comes off patent next month and will then be much cheaper than injection?! Seems very unfair, what happened to patient choice?

  3. chilitee3 says:

    Is this treatment more effective than the intravenous Herceptin or do they have the same efficacy but just different routes of administration.

    Any QALY’s taken into consideration?

    Does this mean NICE no longer approves cancer chemotherapy ?

  4. Ann Henson says:

    Just wondered if you knew whether herceptin by injection is available at Burnley General hospital chemo unit? Thank you Ann

  5. Chris Gallagher says:

    Dear Peter I would like to know how price sensitive is this recomendation? The recomendation will maintain the position Roche as the monopoly supplier at close to the curent market price at the same time that IV Trastuzumab is coming off patent.

  6. Mary Hawking says:

    Has subcutaneous herceptin been approved by NICE and MHRA, and if it has, could you post a link?
    I’m slightly confused, as I had thought that approving new treatments was a function of MHRA and NICE: is it now the remit of NHS England?

    I asked this before, but my comment does not appear to have been posted – so trying again!

  7. Mary Hawking says:

    Has this been licensed by MHRA and approved by NICE?

    If so, a reference would be useful: if not, on what grounds is NHS England sanctioning and commissioning it?

    And is this the way in which, in future, additions to the drug formulary – or other changes – be introduced? Because if NHS England is making the decisions, I do feel that it is necessary to have a robust process – and this process to be widely publicised – and adhered to: inclusion of evidence would be desirable.