NHS lung cancer patients will be the first in Europe to receive a new drug which can stop tumour growth.
The medication, Sotorasib, will be fast-tracked to NHS patients after it was proven in clinical trials to stop lung cancer growing for seven months.
The drug targets the mutation on the KRAS gene, found in a quarter of all tumours, which has become known as the “Death Star” mutation because of its spherical appearance and impenetrable nature.
Approximately 600 lung cancer patients will be given the drug initially in England over the next few weeks after an early access deal was struck with the manufacturer Amgen UK.
Sotorasib, taken as a tablet, binds with the KRAS G12C mutation and makes it inactive, stopping cell division and cancer growth.
NHS researchers have spent 40 years targeting this mutation, and the treatment could cause a major breakthrough in battling other types of cancers, such as pancreatic and colorectal.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The UK is leading the world in rolling out new life-saving treatments so patients can access them as early as possible.
“This ground-breaking new drug which stops lung tumours growing will make a difference to people across England and boosts our efforts to get people the treatment they need.”
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 Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, added: “Sotorasib is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment in 20 years, targeting a cancer gene that was previously un-targetable 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.”
Following approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), NHS England and NHS Improvement and Amgen have reached a national agreement to enable early access to the drug for eligible lung cancer patients in England while NICE completes its ongoing appraisal.
NHS England has also secured several other drug deals including a cholesterol lowering jab expected to prevent around 55,000 heart attacks in the next three years, and Osimertinib, another lung cancer drug that aims to reduce the chance of the cancer returning.
The announcement comes as the NHS continues the latest phase of its Help Us To Help You campaign, urging people with any cancer symptom or unusual changes such as a lump in the stomach or breast area, post-menopausal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss to contact their GP immediately.