The new formulation, Herceptin SC, is the result of a successful partnership between Roche and drug delivery specialist Halozyme Therapeutics.
NHS England has agreed to fund use of Herceptin SC, which cuts the time taken for each dose by more than an hour, following its approval by the EMA.
The likely savings to the NHS through the shift from intravenous to minimally invasive delivery of the targeted drug are estimated at £20m.
The new formulation uses Halozyme’s patented Enhanze technology, which facilitates subcutaneous injection of a large volume of medicine by breaking down the gel-like hyaluronan barrier between cells.
The partners have combined Herceptin with the human enzyme hyalurinase – a sophisticated biological aid to drug delivery.
As a result, Herceptin SC can be given in 2–5 minutes rather than the 60–90 minutes currently required, while sparing the patient the trauma of cannulation.
A clinical study has shown that nine out of ten patients preferred the subcutaneous version of Herceptin to the IV version. The advantage to the NHS in terms of saved time and resources is significant, and could help to relieve pressure on chemotherapy suites.
Professor Lesley Fallowfield, Director Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer, University of Sussex said: “Time is precious to women with breast cancer, far too precious to be waiting around in busy chemotherapy centres. If this method is adopted in the NHS then the quality of life of women with HER 2-positive breast cancer could be dramatically improved.”
Herceptin is normally given every three weeks, for a year or longer, to women with HER-2 positive breast cancer, the most aggressive form of the disease.
According to Dr Mark Verrill, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, “As well as the advantage for patients, subcutaneous Herceptin frees capacity on busy chemotherapy day units. It lends itself to administration in the community, resonating with the Cancer Reform Strategy drive for treatment closer to home.”