Ground-breaking cancer therapy turned down for adults in Scotland

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK's head of external relations in Scotland, said that the decision will be disappointing news for patients in Scotland. Picture: PA
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK's head of external relations in Scotland, said that the decision will be disappointing news for patients in Scotland. Picture: PA
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A blood cancer treatment which can cure four out of ten people has not been approved for use in Scotland, despite being given the go-ahead by the NHS in England.

CAR-T cell therapy Kymriah - a ground-breaking treatment which modifies patients’ immune cells to recognise, seek out and kill cancer cells - was approved yesterday by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for childhood leukaemia, but not adult lymphoma.

The treatment will be used for children and young people with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia who relapse after standard treatments.

However, the SMC did not approve another type of CAR-T therapy, Yescarta, for adults relapsing after treatment for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of blood cancer.

Around 700 children and adults are diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK.

People with DLBCL who relapse after two or more rounds of chemotherapy have an extremely poor chance of survival when treated with further intensive chemotherapy.

Gilead, which manufactures Yescarta, will apply again to the SMC for approval.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research and patient experience at Bloodwise, the UK’s specialist blood cancer research charity, said: “Current intensive treatments cure most children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, but a small number still die in Scotland each year. The approval of Kymriah for use on the NHS will give children and their families another chance of a cancer-free future. CAR-T therapy can also offer the last and only hope of long-term survival for adults with the most common type of lymphoma who do not respond to chemotherapy. While the cost of Yescarta is high and NHS Scotland does not have unlimited resources, patients in Scotland need access to this lifeline, like their counterparts in England.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s head of external relations in Scotland, said: “This will be really disappointing news for patients in Scotland. If approved, Yescarta would have provided a new treatment option for patients with this aggressive type of blood cancer who might have had few other options available to them.

“We hope SMC and the drugs company can work together to make Yescarta available to patients in Scotland.”