1825 - Cancer: Medical Treatments (Answered)

Mr Gregory Campbell
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will take steps to expedite the provision through the NHS of immunotherapy treatments for cancer; and if he will make a statement.

George Freeman

A number of immunotherapy drugs are licensed for the treatment of different cancers and are available for use on the National Health Service, subject to funding decisions by the relevant commissioner. Pembrolizumab and nivolumab are two new immunotherapies that are able to treat a number of cancers. The first cancer where these medicines have shown significant increase in patient survival is advanced stage of melanoma. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has issued early access scientific opinions for both products for treatment of advanced stage melanoma. The Early Access to Medicines scientific opinion for pembrolizumab (Merck Sharp & Dohme) was issued in March 2015 and that for nivolumab (Bristol Myers Squibb) in May 2015.

Applications for marketing authorisations for both products have already received positive opinions from the European Medicines Agency and marketing authorisations are anticipated to be issued by the European Commission soon.

Through its technology appraisal programme, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been able to recommend a number of immunotherapy treatments including, ipilimumab and obinutuzumab. NICE is currently developing technology appraisal guidance on other immunotherapy treatments including nivolumab and pembrolizumab. Wherever possible, NICE aims to publish draft or final guidance on drugs referred to it within a few months of the drug receiving a license. NHS commissioners are legally required to fund drugs and treatments recommended in NICE technology appraisal guidance.