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MSD’s Keytruda to be made available in England for advanced cervical cancer patients

Around 2,600 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in England


MSD’s – known as Merck & Co in the US and Canada – Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in combination with chemotherapy will be made immediately available to hundreds of advanced cervical cancer patients through England’s Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

The CDF pays for cancer treatments while data is collected on their clinical effectiveness, meaning patients can have earlier access to treatments while further evidence is generated.

The recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) specifically applies to adults with persistent, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer whose tumours express programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) with a combined positive score of one and above.

The injected drug works by targeting and blocking PD-L1 on the surface of certain immune cells, increasing their ability to detect and fight tumour cells.

Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in England, with the disease most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 34, according to Cancer Research UK.

While cervical cancer can be curable when detected early and effectively managed, treatment options are more limited in advanced stages.

“Advanced cervical cancer is an aggressive and incurable disease which has a major impact on patients and their families,” said David Long, head of oncology at MSD UK. “Before today there were few treatment options for people with advanced cervical cancer and now MSD is incredibly proud that patients have access to a new treatment option that we hope will go some way to addressing the significant unmet need.”

The company’s application was supported by results from a phase 3 study in which the addition of Keytruda to chemotherapy was associated with a significant improvement in progression-free survival and overall survival in this patient population.

Helen Knight, director of medicines evaluation at NICE, said: “Pembrolizumab shows promise as the first effective immunotherapy. However, to ensure the best use of limited public funding, we need additional evidence to fully analyse its clinical and cost effectiveness before it can be considered for routine NHS use.

“Recommending pembrolizumab to the CDF means people have faster access to care while this further evidence is gathered.”

The combination therapy was also approved in Scotland for advanced cervical cancer patients last month, and the drug is already offered by NHS England to treat several other cancers, including breast, bowel, lung and skin.

Article by
Emily Kimber

29th March 2023

From: Regulatory



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