Two new life-extending breast cancer drugs on NHS to benefit up to 3,000 women a year

The new drugs will give patients with advanced breast cancer a longer and better quality of life

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Thousands of breast cancer patients are to benefit from two new drugs that are set to be made available through the NHS.

Some 3,000 women per year will benefit from a life-extending drug called Alpelisib, which is set to help people with secondary breast cancer live longer.

Meanwhile 650 patients with a certain type of breast cancer will be given access to Trodelvy, which has finally been given the green light for NHS use, despite being preliminarily rejected earlier this year.

Clinical trials show the drug can extend a person’s life by around five months compared with traditional chemotherapy.

Campaigners say the news marks a “momentous and hugely anticipated milestone for certain women living with incurable triple negative secondary breast cancer.”

What is Alpelisib?

Alpelisib, which is manufactured by Novartis, is used in combination with the hormone therapy Fulvestrant to target the gene that causes fast-growing tumours.

When used with Fulvestran, the drug - also known as Piqray - works by blocking the gene’s ability to help cancer cells to survive and grow.

One study showed that half of people who received the treatment combination after previous therapies were able to stop the growth of their cancer for six months.

People with a mutation in the specific gene called PIK3CA will be eligible for treatment if they have explored other treatment options, and it is estimated 3,000 women will benefit from the drug each year.

John Stewart, national director for specialised commissioning for the NHS in England, said: “This latest innovative new treatment will help up to 3,000 more (people) to live a better quality of life.

“This life-extending breast cancer treatment is the 100th to be rapidly made available to NHS patients thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund, and will help people with secondary breast cancer to live longer.”

What is Trodelvy?

Trodelvy, also called Sacituzumab Govitecan and made by Gilead Sciences, has also been approved to treat a type of cancer which cannot be removed surgically.

The drug can benefit women with triple negative incurable secondary breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer is more common in women under 40 and affects about 15% to 20% of all women with the disease. People with this type of cancer are usually offered chemotherapy.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said the aim of the new treatment is to target a protein on the surface of the tumour cells which eventually causes them to die.

Clinical trials show the drug can slow progression of the disease by several months and extend a person’s life by around five months compared with traditional chemotherapy.

Nice said the drug can be considered as a treatment option after women have already received “two or more systemic therapies”.

Helen Knight, interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said: “Both Piqray and Trodelvy are effective additional options that hold out the hope of a longer and a better quality of life for people with these types of advanced breast cancer. And both represent another step in delaying chemotherapy, allowing people to stay well for longer.”

“We are pleased that the companies which make these drugs have been able to work so constructively with us and NHS England to agree deals which mean we can make both available routinely on the NHS for around 3,450 people with these types of advanced breast cancer.”

What has been said about the two new drugs?

Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, has been campaigning for Trodelvy to be made available.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “The news that Trodelvy has finally been recommended by Nice for use on the NHS in England, marks a momentous and hugely anticipated milestone for certain women living with incurable triple negative secondary breast cancer.

“Following a devastating provisional rejection in April, this landmark decision will offer a new, effective treatment for these women, and crucially give them the hope of invaluable extra months to live and do what matters most to them and their loved ones.”

Both drugs are to be made available by the NHS in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay added: “We are constantly monitoring the most promising treatments.

“The incredible work of the Cancer Drugs Fund has now provided early access to 100 cancer treatments for more than 80,000 patients since 2016 and is a pioneer for innovation.”

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