A “game-changing” new therapy has been approved for those diagnosed with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer.
Up to 700 people a year will benefit from the “landmark” approval of pembrolizumab (Keytruda), a type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy that is also a cancer growth-blocker, and lenvatinib (Lenvima).
The drugs work together to stimulate the body’s immune system and kill the growth of cancer cells and will be available immediately on the NHS.
Clinical trials have shown that these drugs, when used together, can double the time it takes for cancer to progress compared with existing chemotherapy.
The treatment was initially rejected on the grounds of cost-effectiveness, but the NHS has been able to use its commercial capabilities to negotiate a deal with the manufacturer that would make the treatment available to patients.
Grace Teeling, 33, who has advanced endometrial cancer and has been receiving the treatment for the past two years, said she did not think she would be able to live without it.
“I have responded very well to treatment, which means there is currently no evidence of cancer in my most recent scan,” she said.
“Even though I was diagnosed with terminal and incurable cancer, it allowed me to thrive. I was able to work, travel, socialize and exercise, including paddling, which I might not have been able to do while on chemotherapy.
“I’m just glad other people have access to this treatment now, because if I didn’t, I think I’d be alive today.”
Fewer than 10,000 people are diagnosed with uterine cancer each year in the UK – the majority of which are endometrial cancers.
In the trial, patients who received the combination treatment had significantly longer overall survival compared with existing chemotherapy, with patients taking pembrolizumab and lenvatinib surviving an average of nearly 19 months compared with less than 12 months for patients receiving existing chemotherapy .
About 1,400 people are diagnosed with terminal cancer, and in about 1,100 the cancer grows back.
One in four people diagnosed with uterine cancer will die from the disease.
Until today, there was no standard second-line treatment available for patients with advanced or recurrent uterine cancer, meaning these individuals had limited options if chemotherapy did not work.
But on Thursday, the US National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved a new treatment that could allow people with this cancer to live longer, feel better and independently and with an improved quality of life.
Pembrolizumab is given intravenously every three or six weeks, while lenvatinib is given as two pills once a day. Currently, patients receive chemotherapy every three weeks, but unlike chemotherapy, there is much less risk of hair loss as a side effect of the new combination treatment.
Chair of the Peaches Womb Cancer Trust trustees, Professor Emma Crosbie, said people with uterine cancer should have more treatment options, but this was “just the first step”.
“This innovative new treatment option will benefit patients with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer for which few effective anticancer treatments currently exist,” she said.
“Every year, many people are faced with a diagnosis of advanced or recurrent uterine cancer and the dire reality of having few treatment options that can improve their survival and quality of life.”
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS National Cancer Director, said: “Most uterine cancers are curable if we catch them early, but for women whose cancer cannot be treated this way it is good news because we now have a more effective treatment. treatments.” Treatments that could help them live longer and better.
“The NHS is a world leader in delivering the latest treatments through its unique commercial capabilities and commitment to innovation on behalf of patients and their families across the country.”