The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended that an innovative skin cancer drug will be available on the Cancer Drugs Fund. Pembrolizumab (KEYTRUDA, MSD) will be available on the Cancer Drugs Fund as an option for some people with melanoma.
The recommendation applies to adults who have disease that has spread to the lymph nodes and who have already had surgery to remove the tumour and associated lymph glands. The aim of this therapy is to remove any cancer left behind.
Pembrolizumab is a type of immunotherapy which works by boosting the body’s natural defences to fight cancer.
Clinical evidence suggests pembrolizumab is likely to extend the time people remain cancer free, with nearly three-quarters of people having no recurrence of the disease at 18 months compared to just over half of the people who were given a placebo. However, the long-term benefit is unclear because the trial is ongoing.
Data on overall survival and how long people might live without the cancer spreading to other parts of the body is also limited. This means the estimates of cost effectiveness are very uncertain.
After surgery to remove the cancer, current treatment is routine surveillance, which includes regular check-ups and surveillance imaging.
Pembrolizumab is administered by an IV drip every 3 weeks. It will be available to patients once its marketing authorisation has been received, which is anticipated to be early December 2018. The treatment will be available at a confidential discounted price agreed between NHS England and the company.
Around 15,906 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the UK each year, making it the fifth most common type of cancer.
Meindert Boysen, Director for NICE’s Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “There are currently no adjuvant immunotherapies recommended by NICE for people who have had surgery to remove their melanoma, a disease which even after surgical removal, has a high risk of recurrence.
“With support from the company, and NHS England, we will be able to publish final guidance almost at the same time as the license for this indication is granted. It highlights the speed at which NICE is able to evaluate important new treatment options so they can be offered to patients as quickly as possible.”
John Stewart, NHS England’s Director of Specialised Commissioning, said: “Thousands of cancer patients are already benefiting from earlier access to innovative treatments through the new Cancer Drugs Fund and NHS England, alongside NICE, have worked closely with MSD to reach an agreement to make pembrolizumab available as soon as possible.”