NHS approves funding for ‘game-changing’ cancer therapy

Children and young people with leukaemia in England will be the first in Europe to receive the ground-breaking therapy

Children and young people with a form of leukaemia will have access to a ground-breaking treatment after NHS England secured a deal with the drug's manufacturer.

Chimeric antigen receptor in action on a T-cell Picture: SPL

Tisagenlecleucel, a form of chimeric antigen receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) therapy, has been shown to cure some patients with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

NHS patients in England will be the first in Europe to have routine access to the treatment, which costs £282,000 per patient at full list price, after the agreement with pharmaceutical company Novartis.

'Game changer'

The deal comes less than ten days after the therapy was granted European marketing authorisation and represents one of the fastest funding approvals in the history of the health service, NHS England said.

The news was announced by chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens at the Health Innovation Expo in Manchester this week.

‘CAR-T therapy is a true game changer and NHS cancer patients are now going to be among the first in the world to benefit,’ Mr Stevens said.

‘Today's approval is proof-positive that, in our 70th year, the NHS is leading from the front on innovative new treatments.

Targeted treatment

CAR-T therapy is a personalised treatment that reprogrammes a patient's immune system cells to target the cancer.

Tisagenlecleucel, also known as Kymriah, has been shown in trials to ‘cure’ some patients, even those with advanced cancers who have not responded to other treatments, NHS England said.

The therapy is licensed for use in patients up to the age of 25 with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that is refractory, in relapse post-transplant or has relapsed for a second time or more.

It has been approved for use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence using the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund.

Three UK hospitals in London, Manchester and Newcastle are awaiting accreditation to provide CAR-T therapy and, if successful, could begin treating patients with tisagenlecleucel within weeks, NHS England said.

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