A 30-minute treatment, the first of its kind for advanced womb cancer, is being rolled out for women across England, the NHS announced today.
Around 100 women with advanced and often incurable endometrial cancer every year will be offered this life-extending drug after the NHS agreed early access to the treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
The drug, called Dostarlimab, is the first of its kind for womb or endometrial cancer, and works by attaching to a specific protein on the surface of the cancer cells, helping the immune system to detect and attack it.
It will give eligible patients with this specific form of cancer, who would otherwise quickly deteriorate, a greater chance of survival.
The treatment, which takes just 30 minutes to administer through the blood stream every three weeks over a 12-week period, offers patients real hope of extending their lives and improving their quality of life.
The NHS Long Term Plan is committed to providing the latest cutting-edge treatments and therapies for patients, and the Cancer Drugs Fund provides faster access to promising cancer treatments on the health service in England.
National Medical Director of the NHS in England Professor Steve Powis said: “This is a significant moment for patients with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer, as this new drug gives real hope to the around 100 patients a year who have had limited success with other treatments, taking just four 30-minute sessions, meaning it is also less invasive.
“This deal could only be made thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund, which allows the NHS to get early access to the latest treatments, and is just the latest example of NHS England using its commercial capabilities to deliver on the NHS Long Term Plan commitment to provide patients with the latest cutting-edge treatments for cancer.
“The NHS has continued to treat cancer patients throughout the pandemic and as we continue to expand our arsenal of treatments against all cancers, please do come forward and get checked if you have a worrying sign or symptom”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our NHS continues to roll out the most innovative treatments from around the world to benefit patients, and this new treatment for endometrial cancer – the first of its kind – will offer hope to hundreds of women.
“Dostarlimab will give those most in need improved quality of life.
“A big thank you to NHS England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) who have made this treatment a reality”.
Previous treatment options for patients whose endometrial cancer returned after surgery, radiotherapy and any hormonal treatment, would have had to undergo an invasive and tiring programme of chemotherapy, which for these patients would only have a limited benefit.
Dostarlimab has less side effects than current clinical options and offers a considerable improvement in quality of life and is also less burdensome for patients due to the short treatment time.
Endometrial or womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women in the UK.
Endometrial cancer forms in the uterus lining and can potentially cause severe symptoms such as vaginal bleeding after menopause or between periods and/or pelvic pain.
The deal through the Cancer Drugs Fund allows patients to access to the new treatment while further data is collected on its clinical and cost effectiveness, to support NICE in making a final recommendation around its routine use in the NHS.
Blake Dark, Director for NHS England’s Commercial Medicines Directorate said: “This is another example of where the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) is able to fast-track the most clinically promising treatment to patients whilst further data is collected to ensure the NHS pays a price that is fair to the taxpayer.
“Dostarlimab is the 94th drug to be funded via the CDF since 2016, joining treatments for over 200 different cancer indications. To date, we have over 75,000 patients registered to receive a CDF funding treatment, many of whom will receive treatment sooner than they previously would have done. This is clearly great news for both NHS patients and our clinicians who work tirelessly to provide the best possible care, and we are pleased to have worked with the British company, GSK, to get this first in class treatment for advanced endometrial cancer to patients faster”.
This is the latest in a series of commercial deals the NHS has agreed over the past year, securing innovative treatments for patients with other rare conditions including spinal muscular atrophy, metachromatic leukodystrophy and the blood disorder, mastocytosis, while also extending access to a ‘miracle’ cystic fibrosis treatment, (Kaftrio).
Jack Harris, UK Vice President Oncology, GSK said: “The availability of new treatment options for endometrial cancer has been long overdue and changing this has been a key goal of ours for some time. That is why we are extremely proud to have worked with NHS England, NICE and the wider endometrial cancer community to reach this decision”.
Hilary Maxwell, CEO and Chair of GO Girls said: “For far too long, choice in treatment options for women with advanced endometrial cancer has been very limited. Dostarlimab represents the first real advance in treatment for those women who sadly again find themselves with more progressive disease. Women’s gynaecological cancer health has for far too long remained in the shadows. It’s great to see this change”.