AstraZeneca’s new UK lung cancer drug hailed as a ‘game changer’

A British drug

AstraZeneca’s new UK lung cancer drug is hailed as a ‘game changer’ that can HALF the risk of death

Research has shown that a ‘breakthrough’ British drug can halve the risk of dying from lung cancer.

The groundbreaking study found that patients who received osimertinib after surgery were 51 percent more likely to be alive five years later than those given a dummy pill.

The daily tablets target non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cancers among people who have a specific genetic mutation, meaning they have stopped responding to previous treatments.

Manufactured by British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, the drug is available to patients through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

But the researchers said the “exciting” findings should pave the way for routine use by the NHS.

A British drug

‘Groundbreaking’ British drug may halve risk of dying from lung cancer, research has shown (file image)

The daily tablets target non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cancers among people who have a specific genetic mutation, meaning they have stopped responding to previous treatments

The daily tablets target non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cancers among people who have a specific genetic mutation, meaning they have stopped responding to previous treatments

The drug is priced at around £5,770 per bottle of 30 tablets, although the NHS will pay less under a confidential agreement.

One of a new generation of precision drugs, osimertinib is effective for patients whose lung cancer is driven by a mutation in their epidermal growth factor receptor gene. Approximately 10-15% of lung cancers in the UK are driven by an EGFR mutation, with these patients tending to have minimal history or non-smokers.

Led by Yale University, the global Adaura study involved nearly 700 patients, who had stage 1 to 3 cancer, meaning it hadn’t spread to other organs.

Each had undergone surgery for the disease, with about two-thirds having no history of smoking. About half were given the drug, which is called Tagrisso, every day for three years, while the rest were given a placebo as no other treatment was available.

When followed up two years after stopping treatment, 12% of those taking the drug had died, compared with 22% for the dummy drug.

Dr Nathan Pennell, from ASCO, said:

Dr Nathan Pennell, from ASCO, said: ‘It’s difficult to communicate how important this discovery is and how long it took to get here.’

The researchers said the results

The researchers said the “exciting” findings should pave the way for routine use by the NHS

The groundbreaking study found that patients who received osimertinib after surgery were 51% more likely to be alive five years later than those given a dummy pill (file image)

The groundbreaking study found that patients who received osimertinib after surgery were 51% more likely to be alive five years later than those given a dummy pill (file image)

In a double push to patients, previous research has found that the drug also halves the chances of the disease returning. Study leader Dr Roy Herbst, deputy director of the Yale Cancer Center in the United States, told the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago that the survival benefits were “exciting”.

He added: ‘Thirty years ago there was nothing we could do for these patients, even 20 years ago.

‘Now we have this powerful drug, we’ve been using it in the beginning. This exceeded our expectations.

“Fifty percent is a big deal in any disease, but certainly in a disease like lung cancer that has typically been very resistant to therapies.” Angela Terry, chair of the charity EGFR Positive UK, said the results were “very exciting and hugely significant”.

He said: “An 88% five-year overall survival rate is incredibly good news for patients with EGFR-mutated NSCLC.

“Having access to a drug whose efficacy is proven and whose side effects are tolerable means that patients can enjoy a good quality of life for longer.”

Dr Nathan Pennell, from ASCO, said: ‘It is difficult to convey how important this discovery is and how long it took to get here. This demonstrates an unambiguous and highly significant improvement in survival.’

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS continues to offer the most cutting-edge treatments to improve patient care and will obviously look into the wider rollout of this medicine to patients if it receives NICE approval following of this encouraging study”.

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