A “revolutionary” lung cancer drug which stops tumours growing by targeting the so-called “Death Star” gene mutation will be available on the NHS within weeks, it has been announced.
It comes after 40 years of research into the mutation on the KRAS gene, which is present in a quarter of all tumours.
The mutation gained the moniker “Death Star” due to its impenetrable nature and spherical shape.
Clinical trials of sotorasib, a treatment which is taken as a tablet, shows it binds to the KRAS G12C mutation, making it inactive. The cells stop dividing and it eventually prevents the cancer from growing.
The treatment has been shown to stop tumour growth in just seven months.
Around 600 lung cancer patients with the gene mutation will be offered the drug initially in England, starting in the next few weeks, making them the first in Europe to receive the treatment.
Estimates suggest there are around 47,800 new lung cancer cases every year in the UK, making it the third most common cancer.
Prof Peter Johnson, the NHS clinical director for cancer, said the “revolutionary treatment” had taken “decades of research” to reach clinics and would now be available for eligible people with lung cancer “as quickly as possible thanks to this agreement”.
NHS England secured an early-access deal for the drug through the manufacturer Amgen, after it was approved by the medicines regulator.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is currently reviewing the cost effectiveness of the treatment, and until their recommendations are returned it has been offered free of charge to the NHS.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, 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.”
Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “Sotorasib is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment in 20 years, targeting a cancer gene that was previously untargetable 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.”