The NHS is preparing to fast-track the introduction of ‘game changing’ new cancer drugs that target tumours according to their genetic make-up rather than where they originate in the body | NHS England
The revolutionary treatments – known as ‘tumour agnostic’ drugs – can be used against a wide range of cancers and could offer hope to patients with rare forms of the disease that may previously have been untreatable.
The first of the new cancer drugs, which target genetic mutations that accelerate the growth of many types of tumours and have particular benefits for children, are set to come on to the market within months.
With such treatments, testing the tumour’s genes or other molecular features assists in deciding which treatments may be best for an individual with cancer, regardless of where the cancer is located or how it looks under the microscope. Molecular testing therefore becomes a first and essential element of treatment planning.
Around 850 patients a year could benefit from the frontrunners while many thousands a year are eventually expected to benefit from other tumour agnostic treatments on the horizon.
Department of Health and Social Care | May 2019 | Innovative brain cancer treatment aid now available across England
An innovative brain cancer treatment could be used to help up to 2000 people a year. Cancer treatment aid 5-ALA (known as the pink drink) is now available across the country and will transform treatment for patients.
5-ALA uses fluorescent dye and ultraviolet light to make cancerous cells glow under UV light. This allows surgeons to more accurately identify the affected areas of the brain.
The treatment aid will help to tackle some of the hardest to treat cases and make sure healthy cells are left untouched.
NICE | May 2019| Abemaciclib with fulvestrant for treating hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer after endocrine therapy Technology appraisal guidance [TA579]
NICE have publsihed technology appraisal guidance: Evidence-based recommendations on abemaciclib (Verzenios) for hormone receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2)-negative locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer in adults who have had endocrine therapy.
For the first time last year, the NHS in England carried out more than two million checks on people who feared they might have cancer.
In 2018, patients underwent a record 2.2 million cancer checks following urgent referral by their GP, almost 6,000 a day or more than four every minute. That was an increase of almost a quarter of a million on the 1.9 million people who were seen in 2017.
Record numbers of people also received treatment for cancer, with 308,058 receiving a first treatment in 2018, almost 13,000 more than in 2017 and the first time the number has topped 300,000.
Cancer survival is at an all time high with new figures showing 10,000 more patients surviving for at least 12 months after diagnosis than five years earlier. However, the NHS Long Term Plan aims to increasing the proportion of cancers caught early from half to three quarters, an improvement that will save up to 55,000 more lives each year.
Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology | April 2019 | Advances in Cancer Treatment
The latest POSTnote from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology gives an overview of recent advances in cancer treatment, the potential benefits and risks, and considers the opportunities and challenges to using new technologies in the NHS.
New cancer treatment technologies have shown promising results in clinical trials, particularly for difficult-to-treat cancers.
Significant progress has been made in cancer immunotherapies for specific cancers and patient populations. Research into the use of these therapies for other cancers and patients is ongoing.
Advances in radiotherapy include improved imaging and precision, proton beam therapy and molecular radiotherapy, all of which have also shown positive clinical results.
Combination therapies, which combine different types of immunotherapy, or drug and radiotherapies, are a priority for current and future research.
New therapies require specialised knowledge and resources; stakeholders agree that they should be delivered as part of a comprehensive multidisciplinary care package.
Winter 2019 will be a landmark for the National Health Service, as it will mark the opening of the NHS’s first high energy proton beam therapy unit, at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester. Adrian Crellin, NHS England clinical lead for proton beam therapy says: “It is a confirmation that radiation oncology is absolutely a key part of modern cancer treatment.”
The two new £125m (€140m; $160m) centres will each treat up to 750 patients a year. “Many of the patients we’ll be treating will be children, young people, and those with what could loosely be termed as rarer tumours,” says Ed Smith, who heads the Christie unit.
Research has advanced since the NHS announced investment in the two national proton beam centres in 2012. Smith, a consultant clinical oncologist, says protons now have “an increasingly proved role in the indications we will treat” and suggests the evidence is “beginning to firm up” for the reduction of long term toxicities.
Conventional radiotherapy uses x rays from multiple directions; a modern variant is high precision, intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), which aims to maximise the dose to the tumour while minimising the dose to the surrounding tissue (Source: The BMJ).