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.
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.
Extensive preparation by the NHS meant that patients in England were among the first in the world to benefit from genetically modified CAR-T cancer therapy.
Speaking to health leaders in Manchester, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens will say that the health service must be ready to fast-track tumour agnostic drugs in the same way.
Detecting cancer early when it is easier to beat and providing the latest treatments is a central part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
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.
Patients in England are ideally placed to benefit thanks to the NHS’s world-leading national genomic medicine and testing service which means they can be identified and tested, allowing faster access to targeted treatment, often when no other options are available.
NHS England will now work with the industry to step up preparations and –
- Bring together different cancer specialists to ensure all patients who could benefit from tumour agnostic drugs are identified
- Embed the tests for these genomic mutations within existing cancer pathways
- Through NICE ensure that the unique characteristics of these treatments will be valued appropriately and efficiently.