Two new lung cancer therapies accepted for use in NHS Scotland

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has accepted two new medicines used to treat different types of lung cancer for routine use in NHS Scotland patients. The medicines were accepted through the Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) process, for medicines that treat end of life and very rare conditions.

These two medicines were among five new treatments accepted by the SMC.

Crizotinib (Xalkori) can be used to treat a very rare form of advanced, incurable lung cancer which generally affects a younger age group. In this type of lung cancer, the cancer cells contain certain defects affecting the gene responsible for a key protein called anaplastic lymphoma kinase (said to be ‘ALK positive’). Crizotinib targets this specific kind of cancer cell and as such is thought to be a therapeutic advancement.

Crizotinib is an oral medication that can delay progression of the disease for an average of four months, giving patients valuable extra time with a better quality of life. Crizotinib may also have fewer side effects compared to chemotherapy. 

Nivolumab (Opdivo) was accepted for the treatment of a different form of lung cancer; squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is a particularly aggressive sub-type of lung cancer with few treatment options. Patients are often diagnosed with late stage disease and often have a poor prognosis. Nivolumab is the first immunotherapy to be licensed for lung cancer, and it works by increasing the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells. It can offer patients an extra three to four months survival time and improved quality of life.

SMC chairman Professor Jonathan Fox said: “From what patient groups and clinicians told us during the PACE meetings, we know that crizotinib and nivolumab for two different types of lung cancer will be welcomed. The patient group and clinician contributions played an important part in helping the Committee reach its decisions on these medicines.”