- The NHS said up to 3,600 people a year with cancer set to benefit from change
- The immunotherapy is currently only available via an IV transfusion in hospital
Thousands of cancer patients England will be the first in the world to receive a revolutionary seven minute jab instead of an hour-long transfusion.
The NHS said up to 3,600 people a year with specific types of lung, bladder, breast or liver cancer are set to benefit from the change.
The immunotherapy — named atezolizumab or Tencentriq — is currently only available by an intravenous transfusion delivered in hospital.
It typically takes half an hour but for some patients this can be up to an hour when it is difficult to access a vein.
Now most patients receiving this treatment will get it as less invasive injection under the skin, cutting treatment times by around 75 per cent.
It is said to be a more comfortable experience and will free-up staff time so they can treat more patients each day, helping to cut waits.
Patients who receive atezolizumab alongside chemotherapy may still be given the drug intravenously.
It is known as a ‘checkpoint inhibitor’ and works by helping the immune system find and kill cancer cells.
The NHS in England said it will become the first health system in the world to roll out the injection version of the drug after it was approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency today.
Professor Peter Johnson, national director for cancer at NHS England, said: ‘The world-first introduction of this treatment will mean that hundreds of patients can spend less time at the hospital and will free up valuable time in NHS chemotherapy units.
‘Maintaining the best possible quality of life for cancer patients is vital, so the introduction of faster under-the-skin injections will make an important difference.’
Dr Alexander Martin, a consultant oncologist at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘This is great news for both patients and clinicians.
‘We welcome any new initiative that brings speedier treatment to patients and gives them more comfortable care.
‘This approval will not only allow us to deliver convenient and faster care for our patients, but will enable our teams to treat more patients throughout the day.’
The faster treatment comes at no extra cost to the NHS thanks to the existing commercial deal negotiated between NHS England and the manufacturer Roche.
Only patients with a protein called programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) are eligible for the targeted treatment.
Clinical trials have shown atezolizumab can reduce the risk of cancer coming back or death by 34 per cent.
Marius Scholtz, medical director for Roche Products Limited, said: ‘Injecting Tecentriq under the skin offers a faster treatment option as it takes approximately seven minutes, compared with 30 to 60 minutes for the current method of an intravenous infusion of Tecentriq.
‘We are delighted that NHS patients across England have access to the subcutaneous PD-L1 cancer immunotherapy injection.’
Multiple cancer studies suggest that the majority of patients generally prefer to receive drugs under the skin – or subcutaneously – rather than intravenously due to reduced discomfort, ease of administration and shorter duration of treatment.