NHS Offers New Breast Cancer Drug

    NHS Offers New Breast Cancer Drug
    Last updated Nov 09, 2022
    Image credit: The Daily Mail


    • England'sNational Health Service (NHS) has reached a deal to provide pembrolizumab to women with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The drug reportedly reduces the chance of the disease progressing by 40% and will be given to 1.6k patients in England each year.[1]
    • According to the chief executive of NHS England, the drug — approved by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence — is "an innovative, potentially life-saving treatment for one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer."[2]
    • Typically, women who suffer from TNBC have a shorter survival time than women with other types of breast cancer. This type of cancer is common in those under 40, Black women, and those with the inherited BRCA gene.[2]
    • This aggressive form of cancer reportedly accounts for approximately 15% of all breast cancer cases, and a quarter of all breast cancer deaths.[3]
    • TNBC cancer cells lack the receptors that other breast cancer drugs target and contain a protein that allows them to hide from the immune system while growing and spreading. Pembrolizumab, also called Keytruda, is delivered directly into the bloodstream in a three-six-week regimen for a year to block these proteins.[4]
    • Clinical trial evidence shows that the drug, combined with chemotherapy before surgery and then used after surgery, increases the chances that the disease will go into remission. The treatment plan can also increase the length of time before it may return.[2]


    Pro-establishment narrative

    This new treatment is a huge win for the UK's healthcare system. It will help treat thousands of women fighting for their lives and provide an alternative to more invasive procedures. This effort should be commended.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    While this is undoubtedly welcome news, it's overshadowed by the dangerously long wait times that UK's cancer patients face. Time is of the essence when treating cancer; unless this backlog can be properly addressed, the new drug's reach will likely be limited.

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