NHS will offer pembrolizumab cervical cancer drug in England

A life-extending drug for advanced cervical cancer will be made available to NHS patients in England, like it is in Scotland, new recommendations say.

Pembrolizumab can mean extra months of life for those with incurable tumours.

The cost of the immunotherapy will be covered by the Cancer Drugs Fund, which aims to make promising treatments available earlier while data is still being gathered on cost-effectiveness.

An estimated 400 women may be offered it over the next three years.

According to Cancer Research UK, around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in England. Many are in their early 30s.

The same drug is already used to treat several other advanced cancers, including breast, bowel, lung and skin.

Given alongside chemotherapy, it helps the body’s immune system to seek out and destroy the cancerous cells.

Samantha Dixon, CEO of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Treatments are far too limited for those living with advanced cervical cancer and this provides patients with valuable options, hope and most importantly time.

“Cervical cancer affects women of all ages, many are young. They have families, children, jobs, caring responsibilities.

“Pembrolizumab can slow the progression of cervical cancer and the impact of this on those who are eligible for the treatment cannot be understated.”

Ali Wheatland, 35 and from Devon, is living with advanced cervical cancer.

She said: “I have now been on chemotherapy treatment for recurrent stage 4 cervical cancer for just over a year which has been tough. This news and knowing that there is now more treatment options becoming available is making me so much more hopeful.”

About cervical cancer

  • Cervical cancer is a cancer that affects the neck of the womb
  • Nearly all are caused by high-risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections
  • Screening for HPV using a smear test can help spot these infections and prevent cancers by treating cell changes before they turn into cancer
  • School children are now routinely offered a vaccine against HPV

NHS England’s director of specialised commissioning and interim commercial medicines director, John Stewart, said: “After nearly 15 years without a new treatment for this type of advanced cervical cancer, this first immunotherapy marks a significant step forward that will provide hundreds of people with precious time with their loved ones.

“This is the 243rd treatment offered through the Cancer Drugs Fund that enables the NHS to provide faster access to cutting-edge cancer treatments for patients.”


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