Two minute breast cancer treatment gets the green light for the NHS

Two minute breast cancer treatment gets the green light for the NHS

Currently, around 10,000 women a year are diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease, which requires drugs to be given intravenously for long periods.

Regulators have now given the green light to a new type of treatment in which the same drug – Herceptin – is administered by injection, in as little as two minutes. NHS authorities have agreed to fund the new jab, which charities said would make help the quality of life for thousands of women undergoing cancer treatment for the disease.

Around 10,000 of the 48,000 British women diagnosed with breast cancer each year have the HER2 positive form, which is aggressive.

Herceptin was hailed as a “wonder drug” for such cases, with high-profile battles by women to win NHS funding for the treatment before rationing bodies allowed it to be funded in 2006.

However, the new treatment speeds up the delivery of the drug, so that women can undergo an injection in two to five minutes instead of enduring an intravenous drip for between an hour and 90 minutes.

Doctors said the development would offer “a dramatic improvement” in the quality of life of women battling aggressive cancer, where treatment can last more than a year. Experts also said the time saved could mean major savings to the NHS, if it is introduced routinely, now that central funding bodies have approved its use.

Sally Greenbrook, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “This is a good example of how research can make improvements to patients’ quality of life as well saving considerable time and money for the NHS. For eligible patients, the option to have their Herceptin administered by injection, rather than through a drip, will appeal to them and we’re pleased that this treatment will now be routinely available on the NHS.”

Professor Lesley Fallowfield, Director Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer, University of Sussex said: “Time is precious to women with breast cancer, far too precious to be waiting around in busy chemotherapy centres. If subcutaneous delivery of Herceptin were to replace intravenous administration in the NHS then patients would spend less time in hospital and more time getting on with their lives."

Doctors said that the ease with which it could be administered meant that in future, it could be offered in community clinics, closer to the patient’s home, making life easier for patients.

Dr Mark Verrill, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne said that current treatment typically lasted a year or more, and was intrusive, and that trials had found the overwhelming majority of women offered the injection preferred it to the longer treatment.”


By Laura Donnelly


The Telegraph, 24 September 2013

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