With over 48,000 new cases diagnosed per year, lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued a final appraisal determination (FAD) recommending MSD’s (known as Merck in the US and Canada) Keytruda (pembrolizumab) when used in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel as an option for untreated metastatic squamous non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in adults.

The approval follows a successful monitoring and patient access period through the Cancer Drugs Fund. The decision from NICE marks pembrolizumab as the first immunotherapy to be routinely used in first line settings for metastatic squamous NSCLC, regardless of PD-L1 expression, when combined with chemotherapy.

Dr Toby Talbot, consultant oncologist at Royal Cornwall Hospital commented: “The combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy used in this trial, which has now been commissioned for routine use on the NHS in England, is a major breakthrough for this subtype of lung cancer which until now has had few treatment options, poor prognosis and relatively little positive research compared to other forms of lung cancer. This treatment offers the hope of enhanced life expectancy compared to previous standard treatments.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the UK, with currently only 16% of patients surviving the condition for five or more years in England and Wales. In the last 40 years, the survival rate of lung cancer has changed very little, from 3% to 5% and it is the third most common cancer in the UK, with over 48,000 new cases diagnosed per year. There are usually no symptoms of lung cancer in the early stages and between 72-76% of people are diagnosed at a late stage, when the cancer has spread outside the lungs.

“From supporting patients throughout their lung cancer journey, we understand how devastating a lung cancer diagnosis is. That is why we welcome this treatment option,” shared Lorraine Dallas, director of prevention information and support at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. “Having ways to manage their cancer and maintain their quality of life in the face of uncertainty is valuable.”