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Patients in England will be first to access seven-minute cancer treatment jab

Patients in England will become the first in the world to benefit from a jab that treats cancer in seven minutes.

After getting approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the NHS will be the first health system to roll out the injection to hundreds of patients each year.

Drug treatment times for some NHS cancer patients will be cut by up to three quarters.

Atezolizumab is usually given to patients intravenously via an IV drip but many of them will now be given the immunotherapy via an injection.

The drug, also known as Tecentriq, treats different types of cancer, including lung, breast, liver and bladder cancers. It is given to about 3,600 patients in England each year.

It is expected that the majority of these people will now get the drug via a seven-minute injection instead of intravenously, which usually takes 30 minutes to an hour.

Patients who receive atezolizumab alongside chemotherapy may still be given the drug intravenously.

The drug is known as a checkpoint inhibitor and works by helping the immune system find and kill cancer cells.
Prof Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national director for cancer, said the move highlighted how an innovation-driven health service was securing the most advanced cancer treatments for patients.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

NHS England said the faster treatment came at no extra cost because of its existing commercial deal negotiated with the manufacturer Roche.

Marius Scholtz, medical director for Roche, 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.”

Studies suggest that the majority of cancer patients prefer to receive treatment subcutaneously – by injection or infusion just under the skin – due to reduced pain and discomfort, ease of administration and shorter duration of treatment, compared to IV infusion.

Thousands of cancer patients in England have benefited from the IV form of atezolizumab, which can significantly reduce the risk of cancer returning.

In patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer, clinical trials have shown atezolizumab can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence or death by 34%, following surgery and chemotherapy.

The innovative treatment works by blocking a protein that stops the immune system from attacking cancer cells, by making cancer cells more visible to the immune system.

It also emerged on Tuesday that the UK’s capacity to certify medical devices has been bolstered by the addition of three approved bodies.

The move is expected to almost double the current capacity, allowing patients to access more effective products.

Approved bodies are appointed by the MHRA to determine whether manufacturers and their medical devices meet the requirements set out in the Medical Devices Regulations 2002.

TÜV SÜD, Intertek and TÜV Rheinland UK have been added to the MHRA’s list. They will look at the quality and design of a device, as well as verifying each unit or batch.

Dr Laura Squire, the MHRA chief healthcare quality and access officer, said: “By almost doubling capacity for medical device assessment in the UK, we’re supporting patients to access the safe and effective products they need to protect their health.”