Home Health Cancer drug that offers a lifeline to patients with untreatable tumours becomes...

Cancer drug that offers a lifeline to patients with untreatable tumours becomes available on the NHS


By Kate Pickles

First published 25 June 2020

A revolutionary drug that offers a lifeline to patients with untreatable cancers has become available on the NHS.

Entrectinib is a so-called tumour-agnostic medicine – meaning it can treat many types of the disease regardless of their location in the body.

Made by Roche, it differs from conventional treatments which are based on where the tumour originated – such as in the breast or prostate. It is the second such medicine to be given the green light after larotrectinib was approved earlier this year.

Entrectinib is set to be used initially on up to 700 patients – aged 12 and over – who suffer from rare types of cancer called NTRK fusions. If successful, this could pave the way for an era of personalised cancer care offering hope to those left with no treatment options.

The drug was approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Meindert Boysen of NICE said: ‘Treatments like entrectinib have the potential to revolutionise how we treat cancers by targeting a genetic mutation that activates tumour growth irrespective of the solid tumour’s location. 

‘While the evidence suggests that solid tumours with NTRK gene fusions shrink in response to entrectinib, further trial data is needed.

‘We are therefore pleased that, because of the joint working between NICE, NHS England and NHS Improvement and the company, adults and children 12 years and older will be able to access entrectinib on the CDF while more data is collected to address any clinical uncertainties.’

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer said: ‘As well as helping cancer patients to continue to get essential care during the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS has been working to bring new treatments onto the front line of patient care.

‘This is the latest deal that the NHS has struck, working together with Roche, to help hundreds of cancer patients every year who will now be able to have this important molecular targeted treatment.’

Last year, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens described the treatments as ‘gamechanging’ and said the ability to treat many types of cancer with a single drug was ‘potentially huge’.

It could eventually help a large proportion of the 367,000 people who are diagnosed with the disease in Britain each year.

Karen Lightning-Jones, head of personalised healthcare and strategic partnerships at Roche, said: ‘People across England will be among the first in Europe to benefit from a new generation of medicine that targets tumours based on their genetic make-up, rather than where they are in the body. 

‘We are proud to have worked in partnership with NHSE, NICE and the Accelerated Access Collaborative, to fast-track access. We look forward to the English Genomic Medicine Service being able to operate at full capacity and help identify those patients who may benefit from entrectinib. 

‘Our commitment is to ensure that people in the UK live longer and healthier lives, and today’s news shows how we are advancing science  to achieve this.’