Hundreds of patients to benefit from revolutionary lung cancer drug on the NHS

A revolutionary targeted drug for lung cancer will be made available to anyone who is eligible, thanks to a new drug deal, the head of the NHS announced today.

Sotorasib targets a genetic mutation, dubbed the ‘death star’, by medics and scientists, and has been proven during trials to prevent lung cancer from growing for seven months.

NHS patients in England were the first in Europe to benefit from the drug in September thanks to an early access agreement made with the manufacturer.

Around 100 patients have already received the treatment.

Announcing the new deal, Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said it meant even more patients could now benefit, with 600 people eligible for the ‘cutting edge’ drug every year.

Around one in eight lung cancer patients will have this lethal ‘death star’ mutation of the KRAS gene, so called because of its spherical appearance and impenetrable nature.

This first-of-its-kind treatment has taken more than four decades to develop and is the latest deal struck by the NHS as part of its Long Term Plan commitment to secure access to more innovative therapies.

The drug, which can be taken at home making it more convenient for patients, could also represent a major breakthrough in treatments for some of the world’s other deadliest cancers, including pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

It is also expected to offer a better and longer life than standard chemotherapy could, while also producing fewer side effects, boosting patients’ quality of life.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “It is fantastic news for hundreds more patients and their families that they will now be able to receive this first of its kind treatment thanks to another deal struck by the NHS.

“From life-changing drugs for cystic fibrosis to new treatments for sickle cell disease, this is the latest in a long list of deals we have struck to provide the latest cutting-edge therapies for patients – at a price that is affordable for the taxpayer.

“The NHS is committed to saving more lives from cancer through earlier diagnosis and treatment, and cancer has been prioritised throughout the pandemic, so anyone who has symptoms or is concerned should come forward and get checked as soon as possible”.

NHS clinical director for cancer Peter Johnson said: “It is very exciting to see this ground-breaking treatment coming into use after 40 years of research on this important target, to directly help patients with lung cancer that carries this particular mutation.

“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, and this deal will make this drug readily available for patients that need it most”.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As part of our national war on cancer, we’re committed to speeding up diagnosis times and providing innovative treatments.

“This includes revolutionary drugs like sotorasib – the result of decades of research and supported by the Cancer Drugs Fund – which will let hundreds more lung cancer patients across England get the treatment they need.

“This ground-breaking deal will strengthen the NHS and help us make the country’s cancer care system the best in Europe”.

The deal was reached by the NHS and the drug will now be offered through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

This revolutionary drug works by binding with the KRAS G12C mutation and making it inactive, stopping cell division and cancer growth in their tracks.

Sotorasib is taken as a tablet by patients at home making it easier than ever for them to get the care they need and reducing the need for inpatient hospital appointments.

Around 50,000 people a year are diagnosed with lung cancer, the third most common cancer in the UK, and this treatment will initially be used as a second-line treatment for patients with advanced lung cancer and those who have seen their cancer continue to progress after chemotherapy.

Having initially been fast-tracked to NHS patients on a budget-neutral basis, the health service is now able to roll out sotorasib through the CDF with around 1,200 eligible patients expected to benefit from treatment in the next two years after the NHS struck a confidential discount with manufacturer Amgen, enabling the drug to enter the CDF.

The deal allows patients to access the new treatment while further data is collected on its clinical and cost effectiveness, to support National Institute of Care and Excellence (NICE) in making a final recommendation around its routine use in the NHS.

Through the CDF more than 75,000 patients have benefitted from faster access to over 90 different cancer drugs in just over five years. Building on the success of the CDF, later this year the NHS will launch a new Innovative Medicines Fund that will support faster access to non-cancer drugs and, alongside the CDF, provide a total of £680 million ringfenced NHS funding for innovative medicines. The consultation on the Innovative Medicines Fund closed in February with 96% of respondents supporting the purpose of the new Fund.

Dr. Tony Patrikios, Executive Medical Director at Amgen UK and Ireland said: “Sotorasib provides a new treatment option for appropriate patients whose lung cancer is found to have the KRAS G12C mutation. More than half of NSCLC patients have advanced or metastatic disease at diagnosis and outcomes across the UK remain poor. Amgen is proud of our collaboration with both NHS England and NICE to ensure people living with NSCLC who may benefit from sotorasib can access the medicine without delay”.

This is the latest in a series of commercial deals the NHS has agreed over the past year, securing innovative treatments for patients with a number of conditions including an at-home treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, a lifesaving gene therapy for metachromatic leukodystrophy and a pioneering treatment for thousands of children with peanut allergies, while also expanding access to the ‘miracle’ triple therapy for cystic fibrosis.