20.04.2024

New British lung cancer drug from AstraZeneca is hailed as a ‘game changer’

A ‘game-changing’ British drug can halve the risk of dying from lung , research has shown. The ground-breaking trial found patients who received osimertinib after surgery were 51 per cent more likely to be alive five years later than those given a dummy pill.

The daily tablets target non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumours among people who have a specific genetic mutation which means they have stopped responding to earlier treatments.

Made by British drugs firm , the drug is available to patients via the Cancer Drugs Fund.

But researchers said the ‘thrilling’ findings should pave the way for routine use on the NHS.

A ‘game-changing’ British drug can halve the risk of dying from lung cancer, research has shown (File image)

A 'game-changing' British drug can halve the risk of dying from lung cancer, research has shown (File image)

The daily tablets target non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumours among people who have a specific genetic mutation which means they have stopped responding to earlier treatments

The daily tablets target non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumours among people who have a specific genetic mutation which means they have stopped responding to earlier treatments

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

One of a new generation of precision medicines, osimertinib is effective for patients whose lung cancer is driven by a mutation in their epidermal growth factor receptor gene. About 10 to 15 per cent of lung cancers in the UK are driven by an EGFR mutation, with these patients tending to have a minimal to no smoking history.

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

Each had undergone surgery for the disease, with around two-thirds having no history of smoking. Around half were given the drug, which goes by the brand name Tagrisso, every day for three years while the rest were given a placebo as no other treatment is available.

When they were followed up two years after stopping treatment, 12 per cent of those taking the medication had died, compared to 22 per cent on the dummy drug.

Dr Nathan Pennell, from ASCO, said: ‘It is hard to convey how important this finding is and how long it’s taken to get here’

Researchers said the 'thrilling' findings should pave the way for routine use on the NHS

Researchers said the ‘thrilling’ findings should pave the way for routine use on the NHS

The ground-breaking trial found patients who received osimertinib after surgery were 51 per cent more likely to be alive five years later than those given a dummy pill (File image)

The ground-breaking trial found patients who received osimertinib after surgery were 51 per cent more likely to be alive five years later than those given a dummy pill (File image)

In a double boost to patients, previous research found the drug also halves the chances of disease returning. Study leader Dr Roy Herbst, deputy director of the Yale Cancer Centre in the US, told the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) meeting in Chicago that the survival benefits were ‘thrilling’.

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

‘Now we have this potent drug, we’re using it early on. This exceeded our high expectations.

‘Fifty per cent is a big deal in any disease, but certainly in a disease like lung cancer which has typically been very resistant to therapies.’ Angela Terry, chairman of charity EGFR Positive UK, said the findings were ‘very exciting and hugely significant’.

She said: ‘A five year overall survival rate of 88 per cent is incredibly positive news for EGFR mutated NSCLC patients.

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

Dr Nathan Pennell, from ASCO, said: ‘It is hard to convey how important this finding is and how long it’s taken to get here. This shows an unequivocal, highly significant improvement in survival.’

An NHS spokesman said: ‘The NHS continues to offer the most cutting-edge treatments to improve care for patients and will of course look at the wider roll out of this drug for patients if it receives NICE approval following this encouraging study.’

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