Four new cancer drugs approved on NHS in Scotland

Cancer Research UK

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Lung cancer cells under a microscope

Lung cancer cells under a microscope Credit: LRI EM Unit

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has approved 4 new cancer drugs for use on the NHS in Scotland. The drugs approved this week are:

  • Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) to treat some lung and breast cancers.
  • Trabectedin (Yondelis) for some advanced tissue sarcomas.
  • Darolutamide (Nubeqa) for some people with prostate cancer.
  • Trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) to treat some people with breast cancer. 
“It’s great news that these cancer drugs have been accepted for use within the NHS in Scotland.” Marion O’Neill, Cancer Research UK’s head of external relations in Scotland.

Combination therapies for breast and lung cancers

The immunotherapy drug atezolizumab has been approved for some people with breast and lung cancer. It works by blocking a molecule that’s often found on cancer cells – called PD-L1 – from interacting with immune cells and stopping them from working properly.

Atezolizumab will now be an option for adults with some forms of advanced triple negative breast cancer that’s spread to other parts of the body in combination with the chemotherapy drug nab-paclitaxel. Clinical trial data highlighted that this combination showed improvements in how long it takes before someone’s cancer gets bigger (known as progression-free survival) and overall survival for individuals who had not received prior chemotherapy for metastatic disease and whose tumours test positive for PD-L1.

“Triple negative breast cancer is an uncommon type of breast cancer, with fewer treatment options than other types of breast cancer which can be treated with hormone drugs, or targeted drugs,” said O’Neill.  “So we’re pleased to see that atezolizumab has also been accepted for use to treat some patients in Scotland with this type of cancer, giving them another treatment option that could give them more time with their families.”

Atezolizumab has also been approved as an initial treatment for adults with small cell lung cancer that’s spread beyond a single area, this time in combination with the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and etoposide. One study showed that this combination gave people more time before their cancer got bigger, and improved overall survival.

“Scotland is the only part of the UK where lung cancer is the most common cancer. It’s really good news for patients and their families that atezolizumab will be made available as another treatment option for some patients in Scotland with small cell lung cancer that has spread”, O’Neill added.

In addition to this, the targeted drug trastuzumab emtansine has been approved as a treatment for adults with specific forms of breast cancer. Some breast cancers have too much of a protein called human epidermal growth factor 2 receptor (HER2) positive. The drug works as a combination, with trastuzumab attaching to HER2 and allowing emtansine to enter and kill the cancer cell. 

It will be an option for women with HER2 positive breast cancer after taxane-based chemotherapy and targeted therapy treatments. 

New prostate cancer treatment

For adults in Scotland with prostate cancer, darolutamide has been approved as a treatment. This applies to those whose prostate cancer hasn’t spread but has got worse despite having hormone therapy (nmCRPC) and who are at high risk of developing metastatic disease. Clinical trial data showed that the treatment improved metastasis-free survival over the placebo.

Trabectedin has also been approved as a treatment for adult patients whose advanced soft tissue sarcoma has not been successfully treated by anthracyclines and ifosfamide – drugs used to prevent cancer cells from spreading by targeting their DNA.