A LUNG cancer drug that can stop tumours in their tracks for up to 10 months will be given out on the NHS.
Around 600 patients a year will be first to benefit from the “breakthrough” pill sotorasib, with it coming onstream within weeks.
Cancer Research UK’s top doctor, Professor Charles Swanton, said: “This is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment in 20 years.
“It targets a cancer gene that was previously untargetable and builds on decades of laboratory research that has unravelled cancer’s inner workings.
“This medicine expands our list of effective therapies in lung cancer that are helping to improve survival for patients with limited options.”
Sotorasib has been available in the US since May but not in Europe until now.
It works by targeting a common mutation on a gene called KRAS, dubbed the “Death Star” because it is so tough.
Medics struggled for decades to tackle the gene but trials suggest sotorasib can smash through its defences and deactivate it, stopping cancer cells multiplying and preventing cancer growth for seven to 10 months.
Lung cancer causes more deaths in the UK than any other form of the disease, killing over 35,000 people per year with only four out of 10 surviving a year after diagnosis.
Scientists hope the breakthrough will work against pancreatic and bowel cancers in future.
NHS England struck a deal with US manufacturer Amgen to get early access to the drug while regulators consider it for regular use in the UK.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: “This ground-breaking new drug, which stops lung tumours growing, will make a difference to people across England and boosts our efforts to get people the treatment they need.”
Interim NHS Chief Commercial Officer, Blake Dark said: “After 40 years of scientific research this drug marks a significant breakthrough in cancer treatment which is why the NHS has worked to secure to treatment for hundreds of eligible lung cancer patients.
“This is the latest rapid access agreement that places a truly innovative treatment in the hands of frontline NHS staff, supporting them to continue to deliver world-class patient care.”