A 30-minute treatment, the first of its kind for advanced womb cancer, is being rolled out for women across England.
Womb cancer affects the womb (uterus), where a baby grows during pregnancy. Most womb cancer usually starts in the lining of the womb (endometrium), this is also known as endometrial cancer. Main symptoms include bleeding or spotting from the vagina after menopause, vaginal bleeding between periods and a change to your vaginal discharge.
Every year around 100 women with advanced and often incurable endometrial cancer will be offered this life-extending drug after the NHS agreed to early access to the treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
National Medical Director of the NHS in England Professor Steve Powis said: “This is a significant moment for patients with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer, as this new drug gives real hope to the around 100 patients a year who have had limited success with other treatments, taking just four 30-minute sessions, meaning it is also less invasive.
Promising cancer treatment
The drug, called Dostarlimab, is the first of its kind for womb cancer and works by attaching to a specific protein on the surface of the cancer cells, helping the immune system to detect and attack it.
It will give eligible patients with this specific form of cancer, who would otherwise quickly deteriorate, a greater chance of survival. The treatment, which takes just 30-minutes to administer through the bloodstream every three weeks over 12 weeks, offers patients real hope of extending their lives and improving their quality of life.
The NHS Long Term Plan is committed to providing the latest cutting-edge treatments and therapies for patients, and the Cancer Drugs Fund provides faster access to promising cancer treatments on the health service in England.
Professor Steve Powis said: “This deal could only be made thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund, which allows the NHS to get early access to the latest treatments and is just the latest example of NHS England using its commercial capabilities to deliver on the NHS Long Term Plan commitment to provide patients with the latest cutting-edge treatments for cancer.
“The NHS has continued to treat cancer patients throughout the pandemic and as we continue to expand our arsenal of treatments against all cancers, please do come forward and get checked if you have a worrying sign or symptom”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our NHS continues to roll out the most innovative treatments from around the world to benefit patients, and this new treatment for endometrial cancer – the first of its kind – will offer hope to hundreds of women. Dostarlimab will give those most in need improved quality of life. A big thank you to NHS England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), who have made this treatment a reality.”
Expanding treatment options for womb cancer
Previous treatment options for patients with womb cancer that has returned after surgery, radiotherapy, and any hormonal treatment would need to undergo an invasive and tiring programme of chemotherapy, which would have limited benefit for these patients.
Dostarlimab has reduced side effects than the current clinical offering and improves the quality of life whilst reducing the burdensome for patients due to short treatment time.
Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women in the UK. The deal through the Cancer Drugs Fund allows patients to access the new treatment while further data is collected on its clinical and cost-effectiveness, to support NICE in making a final recommendation around its routine use in the NHS.
Blake Dark, Director for NHS England’s Commercial Medicines Directorate, said: “This is another example of where the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) can fast-track the most clinically promising treatment to patients whilst further data is collected to ensure the NHS pays a price that is fair to the taxpayer.”
Hilary Maxwell, CEO and Chair of GO Girls, said: “For far too long, choice in treatment options for women with advanced endometrial cancer has been very limited. Dostarlimab represents the first real advance in treatment for those women who sadly again find themselves with more progressive disease. Women’s gynaecological cancer health has for far too long remained in the shadows. It’s great to see this change”.