NHS secures ‘cutting-edge’ cancer drug

The NHS has secured use of a “cutting-edge” new cancer drug for children and young people.

Larotrectinib is a so-called “tumour agnostic” medicine, meaning it targets cancerous cells according to their genetic make-up, rather than where they are in the body.

The drug manufactured by Bayer is thought to work on all solid tumours with confirmed neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase (NTRK) gene fusions, found usually in rarer forms of the disease.

This means it could be used to fight rare cancers where other treatments have previously failed.

NTRK fusions are thought to encourage tumour growth and occur in less than 1% of more common cancers.

Treatment will initially be offered to those known to have NTRK fusions, but testing will be rolled out for all relevant patients as soon as there is capacity in the testing labs currently prioritising Covid-19.

Children, teenagers and young adults with rare cancers are thought to be the most likely to benefit.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens praised staff working on other conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, and added: “Cancer treatment must be a priority, and that will be advanced by the first in a new generation of drugs that can cure previously untreatable tumours.

“This exciting new breakthrough in cancer treatment is the latest example of how the NHS leads the way in the new era of personalised cancer care, even when pulling out all the stops to respond to coronavirus.”

He added: “The benefits for patients, in particular children, of being able to treat many different types of cancers with one drug is potentially huge, helping them to lead longer, healthier lives.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said it was “pleased” to approve the “cutting-edge therapy” for use in the NHS.

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