ALUNGcancerdrug available on the NHS halves the risk of death, according to a study.
Scientists say exciting study results show osimertinib will increase survival of thousands of British patients.
It works by blocking vital receptors that allow cancer cells to use up energy to grow.
The medicine is already being used for some NHS patients after previous research found it reduced the risk of regrowth.
But a 10-year study now reveals it also saves lives, with those who take it after surgery for non-small cell lung cancer significantly less likely to die.
Dr Nathan Pennell, of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, said: It’s difficult to convey how important this discovery is and how long it took to get here.
This shows an unequivocal and highly significant improvement in survival.
Study leader Dr Roy Herbst, of Yale University, said he was delighted with the results of 682 patients in 26 countries, including the UK.
He added: Twenty years ago there was nothing we could do for these patients.
Lung cancers are the leading cause of cancer deaths in the UK, accounting for 49,000 cases a year.
Osimertinib could give valuable extra time to more than 6,000 people who have a type of non-small cell cancer with a mutation in the EGFR gene, which is more common in never smokers.
The genetic mutation means that the switch that makes a cancer cell grow is stuck but the drug can turn it off.
Dr. Herbst’s study found that 88 percent of patients treated with the drug survived five years or more after lung surgery, compared with 78 percent who didn’t take it.
It means their risk of dying has been halved from 22% to 12%.
Angela Terry, chair of patient charity EGFR Positive UK, said: A five-year survival rate of 88% is incredibly good news.
Osimertinib has been a game changer for our community.
Drug maker AstraZeneca is now ready to push for it to be used even more widely on the NHS.
Dr Susan Galbraith, the company’s executive vice president, said Britain needed better tests to identify all patients who could benefit.
Last month the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation accused ministers of dragging their heels on lung screening nationwide.
An NHS spokesman said: This treatment, which halves the risk of this particular type of lung cancer returning, is already being used for people who have had surgery, thanks to a life-saving drug deal concluded by the NHS two Years ago.
The NHS will look into the wider rollout of this medicine to patients if it receives approval following this encouraging study.
What are the main symptoms of lung cancer?
Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer.
More than 43,000 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK.
There are usually no signs in the early stages, but many people eventually develop symptoms including:
- A persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Persistent breathlessness
- Unexplained fatigue and weight loss
- Pain or pain when breathing or coughing
The NHS urges anyone experiencing these symptoms to see their GP.
There are two main forms of primary lung cancer (cancer that starts in the lungs). These are:
- Non-small cell lung cancer (squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, or large cell carcinoma)
- Small cell lung cancer
Treatment depends on the type of cancer and mutation, how far it has spread, and your overall health.
About two in five people with the condition live for at least a year after diagnosis, and about one in 10 people live for at least 10 years.
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