Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.
Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.
“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.
“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.
“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”
The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.
Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.
“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.
“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”
Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.
“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.
“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”