The state-run national health service of Britain is set to become the first such service in the world which will offer an injection that can treat hundreds of cancer patients in the country and can reduce the time of treatment by up to three quarters.
After receiving approval from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), NHS England on Tuesday stated that hundreds of patients who were treated with the immunotherapy, are set to receive “under the skin” injections of atezolizumab, which will eventually lead to more time for cancer teams.
“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,” said Dr Alexander Martin, a consultant oncologist at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, while speaking to Reuters.
NHS England stated that atezolizumab, also called Tecentriq, is usually administered to the patients intravenously, which means directly to their veins through a drip, which can take around 30 minutes or an hour for a few patients when it becomes difficult to access a vein.
“It takes approximately seven minutes, compared with 30 to 60 minutes for the current method of an intravenous infusion,” said Marius Scholtz, Medical Director at Roche Products Limited.
Atezolizumab, which has been the backbone of a Roche company Genentech, is an immunotherapy drug that empowers the immune system of the patients to seek and destroy cancerous cells.
Currently, the treatment is offered to NHS patients suffering from a range of cancers, which includes lung, breast, liver and bladder, through transfusion.
‘Majority must opt for time-saving jab’
NHS England stated that it is expecting the majority of its 3,600 cancer patients, to start treatment of atezolizumab every year in England and opt for this time-saving injection.
However, it added that the patients who will be receiving intravenous chemotherapy along with atezolizumab in combination may remain on the transfusion.
Speaking to The Guardian, NHS England’s national director for cancer Prof Peter Johnson said the move has emphasised how an innovation-driven health service is able to secure 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. 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,” he said.