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NICE recommends MSD's Keytruda for untreated metastatic or unresectable recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Published on 22/10/20 at 01:52pm

NICE has moved to recommend the use of MSD’s blockbuster immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) as a monotherapy in the treatment of previously untreated metastatic or unresectable recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

NICE estimates that around 950 patients in England and Wales with PD-L1-mutated tumours will be eligible to receive the therapy via the NHS based on this new decision.

Clinical trial data reviewed by NICE demonstrated that Keytruda was at least as effective in both standard interventions for head and neck cancer. Treatment approach is different depending on where the patient’s cancer originated: in cancer originating inside the mouth, Keytruda was at least as effective as the standard treatment of cetuximab, platinum chemotherapy and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), and is delivered at a lower overall cost.

In cancer originating outside of the mouth, Keytruda was shown to be more effective than the standard treatment of platinum chemotherapy in addition to 5-FU. The cost of Keytruda was higher, but NICE judged this to be a cost-effective use of resources given the added benefit – it recommended that Keytruda be used only as a monotherapy in these indications and not in combination.

Matt Fellows

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