NHS approves ‘life changing’ drug for breast and prostate cancer patients

The NHS has approved the use of a ‘life-changing’ drug which could benefit patients with breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Men with advanced prostate cancer and women with HER2-negative early breast cancer who are at high risk of the disease returning will be able to access olaparib through the NHS in England. The decision has been overwhelmingly welcomed, with praise from cancer charities and scientists.

Experts at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) described the decision as “life-changing” and say the medicine gives a chance for patients to live longer and healthier lives.

Johann De Bono, professor in experimental cancer medicine at the ICR, said: “Olaparib is an important example of how understanding the underlying genetics of patients, and their tumours’ genomics, can be used to design highly targeted precision medicines.

“For patients with advanced prostate cancer and mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2, these recommendations will be life-changing.”

Olaparib, which is given as a tablet, is a type of targeted drug called a Parp inhibitor. These prevent cancer cells from repairing.

The drug targets cancers with BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations and works by stopping cancer cells from being able to repair their DNA, which causes the cancerous cells to die.

Clinical trials have shown that olaparib, also known as Lynparza and manufactured by pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, can extend advanced prostate cancer patients’ lives by “an average of six months”, NHS England said.

Meanwhile, the targeted therapy has been shown to reduce the risk of the BRCA-mutant, HER2-negative early breast cancer from returning within four years by nearly a third, it added.

It is estimated about 550 men with advanced prostate cancer, and 300 women with HER2-negative early breast cancer will be eligible for the new drug each year in England.