AstraZeneca's Tagrisso (osimertinib) has been recommended for use within NHS England, in line with its licensed indication, for adults with untreated locally-advanced or metastatic epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

In clinical trials, the drug was shown to provide an overall survival benefit of more than three years when used as a first-line treatment compared to first-generation medicines in the same class.

Clinical data also show that Tagrisso has a more significant impact on cancer that has spread to the central nervous system and a favourable side effect profile, AZ noted.

Lung cancer is currently the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for one in five (21%) of all cancer deaths.

The UK has one of the worst five-year survival rates for lung cancer in Europe5\ and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to make this even worse, with a recent analysis published by the Institute for Public Policy Research warning that five-year survival rates could fall from 16.2% to 15.4% in the UK.

“Our country faces an uphill struggle in tackling the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our already lagging lung cancer survival outcomes and access to innovative treatments is a vital aspect in facing this challenge,” noted Dr Yvonne Summers, consultant in Medical Oncology, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

“For this reason, [the] decision to make osimertinib available as a first-line treatment is incredibly welcome news for the lung cancer community. NHS patients with EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC will now have access to a first-line treatment that has the potential to provide them with a meaningful survival benefit compared to older medicines in the same class.”

“After what has been a very difficult year for people living with cancer, I am delighted and relieved that osimertinib will now be offered as a first-line treatment to lung cancer patients with EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC,” added Professor Sanjay Popat, consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

“Aside from the unprecedented survival benefit, osimertinib is also better tolerated by patients compared to first-generation medicines in the same class and has also been shown to impact cancer that has spread to the brain. The difference that these factors make to patients’ quality of life cannot be underestimated.”

Around 2,200 patients will be eligible for treatment with Tagrisso in the first-line setting every year, AZ said.

NICE is also backing the drug as a second-line treatment option for patients with locally advanced or metastatic EGFR T790M mutation-positive NSCLC whose disease has progressed after first-line treatment with an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).

Tagrisso has been available to these patients since October 2016, when it was the first medicine to be made available through the reformed Cancer Drugs Fund, but will now be funded through the routine commissioning channel for NHS medicines.