Exeter, Devon UK • May 22, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home ScienceHealth Cancer therapy via injection to reduce treatment times by up to 75%

Cancer therapy via injection to reduce treatment times by up to 75%

Science editor Orla Watson discusses the rollout of new cancer treatment via injection across England.
3 minutes read
Written by
Johannes Jansson via Wikimedia commons

Patients being treated for certain cancers in England will now be able to receive part of their treatment via injection as opposed to via IV drip. Whereas the IV administration of Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) usually takes upwards of 30 minutes, the new jab will take as little as 7 minutes.

The NHS will be the first healthcare system in the world to roll out the treatment.

3,600 patients in England start courses of Atezolizumab annually, the majority of whom will now be able to receive their treatment in a quicker, and more comfortable manner. The NHS will be the first healthcare system in the world to roll out the treatment, which doctors have described as “great news for both patients and clinicians”.

Atezolizumab is an immunotherapy drug used to treat a range of cancers. It works by blocking protein interactions, with the ultimate effect of reversing the decrease of T cell activation that allows cancers to proliferate. In simpler terms, the drug increases previously suppressed immune system action against tumour cells. It is used either alone or alongside chemotherapy to treat lung, breast, liver and bladder cancers.

As well as the benefits associated with the medicine’s administration, trials indicate that patients prefer Atezolizumab compared to other cancer drugs. In 2021 Cancer Network reported that patients receiving combination treatment including Atezolizumab had increased quality of life and improved disease symptoms compared to Sorafenib, another targeted cancer drug.

The NHS Director for Cancer, Professor Peter Johnson, stresses that the injection will also lead to more efficient use of resources, as “the world-first introduction of this treatment will mean that hundreds of patients can spend less time at the hospital and will free up valuable time in NHS chemotherapy units”.

This introduction and use of the drug comes at no increased cost to the NHS due to existing agreements between NHS England and Roche, the Swiss healthcare company responsible for the production of the drug.

The news comes weeks after the 75th birthday of the NHS, with Professor Peter Johnson commenting “Today’s announcement is the latest in a series in the 75th year of the NHS that highlights how an innovation-driven health service is securing the most advanced cancer treatments for patients”.

Nurses strike outside St Thomas’ Hospital, 19 December 2022. ReelNews via Wikimedia Commons

However, the improvement in cancer treatment is overshadowed by difficulties faced by the health service. Waiting list numbers for hospital treatments have passed 7.5 million patients in England alone. Junior doctors and consultants have arranged first of its first-of-its-kind joint strike action to take place this month.

While Atezolizumab is a success story of how agreements between pharmaceutical companies and health services can save time and resources, and improve patient experience, it is unclear whether the NHS can continue to provide innovative care with insufficient funding.

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