Lung cancer patients to get breakthrough drug on NHS

NHS lung cancer patients will be the first in Europe to be offered a revolutionary new drug which stops tumours growing by targeting the so-called “death star” mutation.

The cutting-edge therapy Sotorasib will be fast-tracked to NHS patients after being proven in clinical trials to stop lung cancer growing for seven months.

The drug’s adoption by NHS follows a 40 year search for a treatment for the mutation on the KRAS gene, present in a quarter of all tumours, which has been dubbed the “Death Star” because of its spherical appearance and impenetrable nature.

Around 600 NHS lung cancer patients a year will be given the drug initially in England, starting in the next few weeks thanks to an early-access deal.

Sotorasib, taken as a tablet, binds with the KRAS G12C mutation and makes it inactive, stopping cell division and cancer growth.

It is the first treatment of its kind and could represent a major breakthrough in treatments for some of the world’s other deadliest cancers including pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

The announcement is the latest in a series of recent drug deals that NHS England has secured including a cholesterol lowering jab which will be made available to hundreds of thousands of NHS patients, expected to prevent around 55,000 heart attacks in the next three years.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “The NHS has a strong track record of securing best value access to world-class treatments for our patients and this lung cancer drug, decades in the making, is the latest deal landed by the health service in England which will save lives.

“Cancer services have been prioritised throughout the pandemic and despite the unavoidable disruption caused by COVID, the NHS has put to good use the additional resources to help us respond, with the number of people getting treatment back to pre-pandemic levels, so I want to remind anyone who is worried about signs of cancer to come forward and get care as the NHS is here for you and offering the most advanced care available.”

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS Clinical Director for Cancer said: “The NHS is committed to saving more lives from cancer through better diagnosis and treatment, with molecular testing through our genomics programme increasingly important for selecting the best options for patients.

“This revolutionary treatment has taken decades of research to reach the clinic, and now that it is here this new targeted drug will be available for eligible people with lung cancer as quickly as possible thanks to this agreement.”

Interim NHS Chief Commercial Officer, Blake Dark said: “After 40 years of scientific research this drug marks a significant breakthrough in cancer treatment which is why the NHS has worked to secure to treatment for hundreds of eligible lung cancer patients.

“This is the latest rapid access agreement that places a truly innovative treatment in the hands of frontline NHS staff, supporting them to continue to deliver world-class patient care.”

Newly approved by the MHRA, the NHS will begin to offer the new drug within weeks to eligible lung cancer patients, following a national access agreement reached with the manufacturer Amgen.

NHS England, NICE and manufacturer Amgen have reached an agreement to enable early access to sotorasib for eligible lung cancer patients in England on a budget-neutral basis to the NHS while NICE completes its ongoing appraisal.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “Sotorasib is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment in 20 years, targeting a cancer gene that was previously untargetable and built on decades of laboratory research that’s unravelled cancer’s inner workings.

“This medicine expands our list of effective precision therapies in lung cancer that are helping to improve survival for patients with limited options. It’s great news that patients in England will now benefit from this novel treatment.”

Dr Tony Patrikios, Executive Medical Director, Amgen UK and Ireland, said: “Amgen’s first-in-class medicine, sotorasib, is the culmination of a 40-year quest to target this cancer gene mutation which is known to drive the growth of certain cancers. As an oral targeted therapy, this represents a new option for specific non-small cell lung cancer patients, and we are delighted to partner with NHS England to make this treatment available to those patients who may benefit from it, as quickly as possible.”

It comes as NHS chief Amanda Pritchard urged people to come forward and contact their GP with any cancer symptoms, in the latest phase of the Help Us to Help You campaign, as research shows that 60% of people are worried about burdening the NHS in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

Anyone experiencing symptoms or unusual changes such as a persistent cough that isn’t COVID, coughing up blood, a lump in the tummy or breast area, post-menopausal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss, should contact their GP as these can also be signs of cancer.

This is the second Orbis-licenced drug the NHS in England has made available through a national access agreement, following a similar NHS agreement for osimertinib that was reached in May.

Project Orbis is an international partnership between medicines regulators in the UK, U.S., Australia and others, set up to speed up the approval process for promising cancer treatments, and hoped to benefit other patients in England this year.