Deal for NHS to Offer Children 'Game changer' Cancer Therapy

Peter Russell

September 05, 2018

A price deal has been negotiated that will allow the NHS in England to offer children and young people an innovative cancer treatment. 

CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor T-cell) therapy has been hailed as a groundbreaking treatment for aggressive leukaemia. 

The personalised technique involves reprogramming the patient's T cells to recognise and target a specific protein on cancer cells. 

The tisagenlecleucel form of CAR-T (Kymriah, Novartis) has been approved for the treatment of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children and young people up to the age of 25 whose disease is refractory, or who are in relapse post-transplant, or who are in second or later relapse. Patients in trials had an average age of 11.

Price Discount Negotiated

The treatment costs around £282,000 per patient at its full list price. However, a commercial agreement struck with the manufacturer means that eligible young people could receive CAR-T therapy within weeks, subject to hospitals passing accreditation requirements, NHS England said.

The money for the CAR-T therapy will come from the Cancer Drugs Fund, set up to give patients in England early access to the most promising new treatments.

It is understood that the therapy will be available initially in London, Manchester, and Newcastle.

'A True Game Changer'

Announcing the deal at Health Innovation Expo in Manchester, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "CAR-T therapy is a true game changer, and NHS cancer patients are now going to be amongst the first in the world to benefit.

"Today’s approval is proof-positive that, in our 70th year, the NHS is leading from the front on innovative new treatments.

"This constructive fast-track negotiation also shows how responsible and flexible life sciences companies can succeed – in partnership with the NHS – to make revolutionary treatments available to patients."

Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research at the blood cancer charity Bloodwise, said: "Intensive chemotherapy can now cure the vast majority of children but a significant number still tragically die every year because they do not respond to treatment. CAR-T cell therapy offers the genuine chance of a long-term cure for children who otherwise would have no other hope."

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician said: "It’s fantastic news for children and young people with this form of leukaemia that CAR-T cell therapy will be made available on the NHS, making them the first in Europe to have routine access to this exciting new type of immunotherapy.

"We applaud NHS England, NICE and the company for working together to make this immensely complex treatment available to patients quickly, through the Cancer Drugs Fund."


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