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AstraZeneca leukaemia treatment recommended for NHS use

Published on 18/03/21 at 08:42am

AstraZeneca has announced today that its oral targeted cancer therapy, Calquence (acalabrutinib), has been recommended by NICE for routine use within NHS England as a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

CLL is the most common form of blood cancer in adults in the UK, and NICE estimates that approximately 2,395 patients will be eligible for treatment with acalabrutinib every year.

Tom Keith-Roach, President of AstraZeneca UK, said: “Today’s decision by NICE to enable access to acalabrutinib is very welcome. The NHS has made a clear commitment to significantly improve patient outcomes in cancer and providing access to precision medicines like acalabrutinib is an important part of getting back on track post-COVID.”

This is the first time that untreated, non-high risk CLL patients, who cannot be treated with standard chemotherapy, will have access to targeted oral monotherapy that can be taken at home. Previously, the standard treatment consisted of combination therapy involving intravenous administration in hospital.

The announcement today builds on the draft NICE recommendation from December, where access to acalabrutinib was granted for patients with untreated, high-risk CLL or previously treated CLL.

Anna Schuh, Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Haematologist at the University of Oxford, said: “This NICE recommendation has the potential to improve disease outcomes for thousands of patients with CLL in the UK. There has been a significant unmet need for effective, targeted treatments that are well tolerated and that do not require multiple hospital visits, especially for patients in need of treatment for the first time.

“Acalabrutinib is generally well-tolerated and therefore represents a welcome new treatment option for older and frail patients. The NICE recommendation is therefore excellent news for the CLL community.”

In clinical trials, acalabrutinib significantly prolonged the time that patients spent in remission compared with existing treatment options, in both untreated and previously treated patients.

It is estimated that there are around 3,800-4,500 new CLL cases in the UK each year with men being nearly twice as likely to develop the disease than women.

Marc Auckland, Chair of CLL Support, said: “CLL is an incurable blood cancer that until a few years ago could only be treated with standard chemotherapy. New targeted oral drugs are now broadening the options to manage this disease that affects over 20,000 people across the UK.

“The NICE recommendation for acalabrutinib expands treatment options for many people with CLL, with some people being able to access a BTK inhibitor for the first time. This is a great step forward and the challenge now is to understand which treatment to use in what sequence to contain this chronic disease.”

Kat Jenkins

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