The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended MSD’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) combined with chemotherapy for the first-line treatment of certain oesophageal cancer patients.

Specifically, NICE has approved Keytruda for use in combination with platinum- and fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy as an option for untreated inoperable or metastatic carcinoma of the oesophagus, or HER-2 negative gastro-oesophageal junction adenocarcinoma in adults whose tumours express PD-L1.

In a Phase III trial, Keytruda plus chemotherapy was shown to extend the lives of certain patients with newly diagnosed late-stage oesophageal cancer, with twice as many patients alive after two years or more since they began the treatment compared to those who received chemotherapy alone (31% versus 15%, respectively).

“We at MSD are delighted that NICE has approved pembrolizumab combined with chemotherapy for people with oesophageal cancer that has begun to spread,” said David Long, oncology business unit director, MSD UK.

“When diagnosed at stage 3 or 4, oesophageal cancer is deadly and, unlike other cancers, there has been very little innovation in treatment options for patients – contributing to the disease’s status as one of the ‘least survivable cancers’. I am proud that MSD has been able to contribute to filling this void,” he added.

“Advanced oesophageal cancer can be very aggressive, with limited treatment options which offer only modest benefits for patients. Improvements in treatments for these patients has been in urgent need for the last half century. This approval from NICE is a major step forward in addressing these needs – offering a new type of treatment in immunotherapy for this group of patients for the first time on the NHS,” commented Was Mansoor, consultant medical oncologist at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.