NHS lung cancer patients will be the first in Europe to receive a new drug which can stop the growth of tumours.
The drug, called Sotorasib, has been proven in clinical trials to stop lung cancer growing for seven months.
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How does the drug work?
Sotorasib, which is sold in the US under the brand name Lumakras, targets the mutation on the KRAS gene which is found in a quarter of all tumours.
The gene has become known as the “Death Start” mutation because of its spherical appearance and impenetrable nature.
It can be taken as a tablet and when consumed it binds with the KRAS G112C mutation, making it inactive.
This then prevents the cells from dividing and stops cancer growth.
After 40 years of NHS researchers targeting this mutation, the treatment could mark a major breakthrough in battling other types of cancers, such as pancreatic and colorectal.
Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, explained: “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.”
What are the side effects?
As with all medications, Sotorasib has the potential to cause side effects among some patients, although for many people this will only be mild, while others will have no adverse effects at all.
The most common symptoms linked to the drug include:
- Bone, joint or muscle pain
- Stomach pain
When will the drug be available?
The drug will be given to around 600 lung cancer patients in England over the next few weeks, after a deal was struck with the manufacturer Amgen UK.
Following approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), NHS England and NHS Improvement and Amgen have reached a national agreement for eligible lung cancer patients in England to get early access to the drug, while the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) completes its ongoing appraisal.
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.”
As well as Sotorasib, NHS England has also secured several other drug deals.
These include a cholesterol lowering jab, which is expected to prevent around 55,000 heart attacks over the next three years, and Osimertinib.
This is another lung cancer drug treatment which can minimise the chance of the cancer returning.
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.”
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