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AstraZeneca immunotherapy for stage 3 lung cancer patients now available in England

AstraZeneca’s immunotherapy treatment designed to cure stage 3 lung cancer is now available to patients in England thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Laboratory work at AstraZeneca. Picture: Marco Betti (8200890)
Laboratory work at AstraZeneca. Picture: Marco Betti (8200890)

IMFINZI - the brand name name for durvalumab - has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which determines drugs used by the NHS.

Professor Corinne Faivre-Finn, professor of thoracic radiation oncology at the University of Manchester and honorary consultant clinical oncologist at The Christie NHS Foundation, said: “The availability of durvalumab is a watershed moment for lung cancer in England as it will change how we treat patients with stage 3 disease. Stage 3 NSCLC is potentially curable but unfortunately with current treatments most patients will progress to advanced disease. Now, for the first time in 20 years, we have access to a new treatment option that has been shown to improve survival outcomes.”

Each year, almost 6,250 people in England are diagnosed with stage three NSCLC, which is where the cancer has spread within the lungs and possibly the lymph nodes but has not reached other parts of the body,

There is a chance to cure the disease at this stage, before it progresses to stage four (metastatic) cancer, when the aim is to prolong life and provide palliative care.

AstraZeneca estimates that almost 300 patients will be eligible for durvalumab monotherapy

AstraZeneca's new global HQ and R&D centre. (8200903)
AstraZeneca's new global HQ and R&D centre. (8200903)

Durvalumb has been recommended for use within the Cancer Drugs Fund as an option for treating the disease in adults with tumours that express a protein called PD-L1 on at least one per cent of tumour cells and whose disease has not progressed following concurrent platinum-based chemoradiation therapy.

Analysis has shown the risk of death in such patients is reduced by 47 per cent by the drug, and progression to stage four was typically delayed by a year.

Mohit Manrao, director of the Oncology Business Unit at AstraZeneca UK, said: “For the first time, this group of stage 3 NSCLC patients have access to an immunotherapy that has been shown to improve survival.

“We made durvalumab available in the UK via an early access programme since October 2017 and are now delighted that it will be available within NHS England.

“As a company with a long and deep heritage in driving lung cancer research and treatment changes in the UK, we have worked collaboratively with NICE to ensure a positive outcome as quickly as possible.”

The Cancer Drugs Fund is a government funding source for oncology medicines operated by NHS England in partnership with NICE.

Meanwhile, on Monday it was announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had granted breakthrough therapy designation for selumetinib for children aged three and over with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) symptomatic and/or progressive, inoperable plexiform neurofibromas (PN), a rare, incurable genetic condition.

The designation means regulatory approval for the drug, developed by AstraZeneca and MSD, could be expedited.

It is the ninth such designation that AstraZeneca has received since 2014.

Dr Jose Baselga, AstraZeneca's executive vice-president, research & development oncology. Picture: AstraZeneca (8200894)
Dr Jose Baselga, AstraZeneca's executive vice-president, research & development oncology. Picture: AstraZeneca (8200894)

José Baselga, executive vice president, research and development, oncology, said: “Selumetinib shows promise in the treatment of NF1-related plexiform neurofibromas, a rare and debilitating disease with no approved medications to date. The Breakthrough Therapy Designation acknowledges the significant unmet need of these patients and the potential benefit of selumetinib in this setting.”

AstraZeneca has also announced a collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo in Japan to develop and commercialise trastuzumab deruxtecan.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said: “We believe that trastuzumab deruxtecan could become a transformative new medicine for the treatment of HER2-positive breast and gastric cancers. In addition, it has the potential to redefine breast cancer treatment as the first therapy for HER2-low expressing tumours. It also has the potential to treat other HER2-mutated or HER2-overexpressing cancers, including lung and colorectal cancers. We are proud to be working with Daiichi Sankyo, a long-term collaborator of AstraZeneca in other disease areas.”

AstraZeneca Cambridge Biomedical Campus, topping out, Pascal Soriot. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8200925)
AstraZeneca Cambridge Biomedical Campus, topping out, Pascal Soriot. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8200925)

And last Wednesday, AstraZeneca announced that the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare had approved Forxiga (dapagliflozin) as an oral adjunct treatment to insulin for adults with type-1 diabetes.

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