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expert reaction to decision by NICE to recommend lung cancer drug durvalumab to be made available on the NHS in england

Reactions to news that The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended the drug durvalumab to be made available on the NHS

Professor Alan Melcher, Professor of Translational Immunotherapy at The Institute of Cancer Research, said:​

“This is another example of the potential of immunotherapy as an entirely new type of treatment for cancer, distinct from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. By activating the patient’s own immune system to attack their tumour, this type of treatment improves the outlook of patients with this stage of lung cancer, and may even lead to cures in some cases.”

Dr Fiona McDonald, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust; said:

“This decision marks the biggest advance we’ve seen for a number of years, in treating locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer. For our patients it’s fantastic news; I expect to see an immediate impact on clinical practice, and for this treatment to become the standard of care for eligible patients.

“The trial on which the decision is made showed a step-change increase in survival rates and demonstrates a clear benefit of immunotherapy, given after the current standard of care, concurrent chemoradiation. This is a major step forward for those patients who present with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

“More broadly speaking it adds to the positive steps we are making in lung cancer, already bolstered thanks to our efforts in prevention and early diagnosis.”

Prof James Spicer, consultant in medical oncology and professor of experimental cancer medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Immune therapies have already had a huge impact for many cancers, but mostly in patients where the tumour has already spread around the body. Now, patients with localised lung cancer, completing treatment with combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can be offered the immunotherapy drug durvalumab. The trial suggests that this treatment reduces the risk of the disease returning.”

Professor Charlie Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician and lung cancer expert, said:

“Durvalumab is a kind of drug called an immune checkpoint inhibitor, which works by reawakening immune cells in the tumour so that they can recognise and attack mutated proteins on the surface of lung cancer cells.

“Around 300-500 patients per year may be eligible for treatment with durvulumab. Stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer accounts for approximately 20% of new lung cancer diagnoses each year. Around half of these newly diagnosed patients would have tumours that could be targeted by this drug. Some patients will be successfully treated with surgery, while others will receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, it’s important to remember that not all patients will benefit from immunotherapy, so there is still an urgent need to discover further treatments that can improve outcomes in this disease – a central priority for Cancer Research UK.”

Declared interests

Dr McDonald acted as an advisor to the NICE committee on this assessment.

No others received.

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