Women with advanced breast cancer granted new NHS drug

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One in seven women in Britain will develop breast cancer at one point in their life - with one woman diagnosed every 10 minutes
One in seven women in Britain will develop breast cancer at one point in their life - with one woman diagnosed every 10 minutes

A new drug will be available via the NHS to roughly 100 women a year who have advanced breast cancer.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has reversed its decision to reject the new form of immunotherapy, called Keytruda (pembrolizumab), saying women can now take the drug in combination with chemotherapy.

The drug, for women with incurable secondary triple-negative breast cancer, strives to slow down disease progression, which in turn gives patients extra time.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said the move was “absolutely fantastic news for around 100 patients” every year with the disease.

She added: “Following its worrying provisional rejection by Nice earlier this year, the reversal of this decision now brings hope to eligible women.”

Baroness Morgan said it can give these women “precious additional time before their disease progresses and more months to live and spend time with loved ones and doing what matters most to them.”

She noted triple-negative breast cancer is an especially aggressive type of breast cancer, which frequently has “poorer outcomes”.

“Whilst immunotherapy treatment atezolizumab was made available on the NHS in 2020, there has remained an unmet need for a group of patients who could not receive this combination,” she added.

“Which is why it is so vital that alternative treatments, such as pembrolizumab, quickly reach those still desperately in need of new, effective treatment options.

“Despite this positive news, we now also desperately need to see progress on the Nice appraisal of Trodelvy, which is another potentially life-extending drug for certain people with secondary breast cancer, that was devastatingly provisionally rejected in April.”

Baroness Morgan explained a “recent delay” to the second Nice committee meeting has triggered yet more worry for patients which she branded as “unacceptable”.

It comes as Breast Cancer Now polled just over 1,000 women with breast cancer – discovering almost half said the illness had a detrimental impact on their body image, while a quarter said the disease had damaged their sense of self and identity.

Almost four in ten said their breast cancer diagnosis harmed their mental health and self-esteem.

One in seven women in Britain will develop breast cancer at one point in their life - with one woman diagnosed every 10 minutes.

Breast Cancer Now calls for women to examine their breasts for cancer at least every six weeks as getting an early diagnosis can stop women dying from the illness. The charity notes those who need help can speak to their expert nurses by calling their free helpline on 0808 800 6000.

Additional reporting by wires