A new drug could benefit hundreds of women with the most aggressive form of breast cancer.
Officials have approved NHS use of pembrolizumab to treat 1,600 patients with triple-negative breast cancer in England.
According to the charity Breast Cancer Now, triple-negative breast cancer typically has a higher risk of returning and spreading to other parts of the body in the first few years after treatment.
But scientists say that for those taking the new drug — chemotherapy before surgery — the likelihood of the cancer disappearing and the time it takes for the cancer to come back increases.
Breast Cancer Now, which promotes and supports research, welcomed the new treatments, saying women with this type of breast cancer previously faced “the dire reality of limited treatment options.”
While triple-negative breast cancer may be less common, accounting for about 15 percent of all cases, it is a more aggressive disease, accounting for a quarter of all breast cancer deaths.
The rare disease primarily affects patients under the age of 40, black women, and patients with specific mutations in the BRCA1 gene, according to Breast Cancer Now.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: “This new treatment may cause any detectable cancer to disappear at the time of surgery, meaning patients may face less invasive breast-conserving surgery.
“Furthermore, by significantly reducing the likelihood that breast cancer will recur or spread to other parts of the body as incurable secondary breast cancer, this treatment offers valuable hope that more lives may be saved from this devastating disease .”
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Helen Knight, interim director of drug evaluation at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), said: “Today’s draft guidelines mean we have now recommended three new treatments, which have been routinely used in the NHS since June, to help To address this unmet need and provide thousands of people with the hope of a longer, better quality of life.”
John Stewart, director of NHS dedicated commissions, said: “This latest deal in cutting-edge breast cancer treatment demonstrates the NHS’ ability to come to an agreement on the latest medicines and treatments at a price that taxpayers can afford.”