The NHS' Cancer Vanguard is partnering with Amgen and Sandoz to improve the provision of cancer medicines to NHS patients.

The Cancer Vanguard programme, part of the NHS new care models programme, was set up in 2015 to assess and fast-track innovative methods of delivering cancer services in London and Greater Manchester, developing transformational new models of care that can be replicated nationally.

Under its Pharma Challenge programme, pharmaceutical companies were invited to submit proposals to improve the availability and delivery of cancer drugs. Thirty-nine different proposals were put forward by companies, of which the first two have now been chosen to go forward.

The Amgen project aims to map out and measure the most efficient out-of-hospital administration of Xgeva (denosumab), which is used in patients with advanced breast cancer. This idea is to push treatment closer to patients' homes and help health professionals determine the best treatment 'pathway' for each patient.

Sandoz has proposed an education and engagement programme with healthcare professionals across the Cancer Vanguard about the use of biosimilar medicines, which are highly similar copies of biologic medicines but offer significant potential savings. The firm is hoping that its programme will improve healthcare professionals' understanding of biosimilars and help them to better inform patients about their use and assist in their timely introduction when appropriate.

The Cancer Vanguard is continuing to assess a number of further projects proposed through the Pharma Challenge and anticipates signing more agreements in the near future. Companies are expected to meet the full cost of the projects themselves and demonstrate their wider benefit to the NHS.

"My colleagues and I were very impressed by the variety of companies and ideas that were submitted. We knew that the pharma industry had the best knowledge of how their medicines are used both in the UK and across the world, and were delighted that so many offered time and resource to drive forward innovative projects," Rob Duncombe, director of Pharmacy at The Christie and chair of the vanguard's joint medicines optimisation group.

"Through better use of cancer medicines, the potential to improve patient outcomes and experience, while saving the NHS money, is tremendous".

The Cancer Vanguard is led by The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and the wider system of cancer services in Greater Manchester, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The three hospital trusts' spend on cancer medicines alone exceeds £120 million annually.