NHS approves ‘life-changing’ drug to treat prostate and breast cancer | tech news
The NHS approved the use of a drug which could benefit hundreds of breast and prostate cancer patients.
Men with advanced prostate cancer and women with early-stage HER2-negative breast cancer who are at high risk of disease recurrence can access olaparib through the NHS in England.
Olaparib, which is given as a pill, is a type of targeted drug called a Parp inhibitor. These prevent the repair of cancer cells.
The drug targets cancers with BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations and works by preventing cancer cells from repairing their DNA, causing the cancer cells to die.
Clinical trials have shown that olaparib, also known as lynparza and made by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, can extend the life of patients with advanced prostate cancer by “an average of six months”, NHS England said.
Targeted therapy has now been shown to reduce the risk of recurrence of BRCA-mutated, HER2-negative early-stage breast cancer by almost a third within four years, she added.
An estimated 550 men with advanced prostate cancer and 300 women with HER2-negative early breast cancer are eligible for the new drug in England each year.
“Olaparib could have a tremendous impact on patients with a range of cancers, giving many a better chance of survival while providing valuable additional months of life to patients with advanced forms of the disease,” said Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England.
Experts at the Institute for Research on Cancer (ICR) called the decision “life-changing” and say the drug gives patients the chance to live longer, healthier lives.
Johann De Bono, Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at ICR, said: “Olaparib is an important example of how understanding the underlying genetics of patients and the genomics of their tumors can be used to design highly targeted, precision drugs.
“For patients with advanced prostate cancer and mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2, these recommendations will be life-changing.”
Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of the ICR, added: “I am delighted that NHS access to olaparib, the world’s first cancer drug to target an inherited genetic defect, is being extended to more patients who desperately need better options .’
Prostate Cancer UK said it was a “landmark moment” for prostate cancer treatment.
Chiara De Biase, Director of Support and Influence at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This is the first targeted treatment of its kind to be approved for the disease and it takes us away from the old ‘one size fits all’ approach to the prostate once and for all cancer treatment.
“We are proud of the role we played in the development of this exciting drug that will extend the lives of hundreds of men every year.”
Breast Cancer Now said it had been an “agonizing” wait to get a decision on whether to use the drug, given a tentative denial last November.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Now, said: “Some patients with high-risk, HER2-negative primary breast cancer who have an altered BRCA gene – often known as the ‘Jolie gene’ – may find that their cancer returns after treatment returns.
“Crucially, olaparib may reduce the risk of the cancer coming back or developing into an incurable secondary breast cancer and preventing people from dying from this devastating disease.”
Health Secretary Helen Whately added: “We are committed to providing patients with world-class cancer care and are constantly collaborating with clinicians to find new, cutting-edge treatments.
“Reducing waiting lists is one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities and we are driving progress with new one-stop shops offering a range of screenings, tests and scans closer to where they live, meaning patients can get the cancer treatment ‘that you need as soon as possible.’
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