Fast-tracked through the new Early Access to Medicines Scheme
The new drug, pembrolizumab, has been developed to treat advanced skin cancers such as melanomas that have started to spread through the body. Although it has not yet been licensed in the UK, a new scheme has made it available for people already very ill with their disease.
‘The arrival of pembrolizumab represents an exciting new development in the treatment of advanced melanoma’, comments Dr Conal Perrett, Consultant Dermatologist The Devonshire Clinic. “It is encouraging to see that it has been fast tracked to patients by the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS), an initiative set up by the UK government last year,” he adds.
Available for patients with advanced melanoma
The Early Access to Medicines Scheme allows a drug that is showing great promise but that has not yet been approved and licensed to be prescribed by doctors and consultants for the patients who most need it. In this case, this includes people with advanced melanoma skin cancer who have no other treatment options other than palliative care.
What does pembrolizumab do?
Pembrolizumab is one of a new generation of anti-cancer drugs that focus on helping the body’s own immune system recognise and kill cancer cells. When melanoma, one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer, starts to spread throughout the body, it can be fatal. The drug blocks a process within the cancer cells that they use to hide from the immune system.
With no ‘cloaking device’ the cancer cells are open to attack my cells of the immune system and this can help fight the cancer throughout the body.
The advantages of releasing the drug early
Usually, new cancer drugs that are already shown to be safe and show great promise need to be officially licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and approved by the National Institute for Clinical Care Excellence (NICE).
Under the EAMS scheme, regulators carry out a very thorough evaluation of the evidence behind the drug’s potential and then recommend that the drug is made available. It then goes through the normal, and often lengthy process of becoming licensed and then approved for use in the NHS.
The most severely ill patients can access treatment and more data from their response to the new drug can be collected during this time. It is hoped that this will avoid delays and will show which patients can benefit from it the most in the future.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that can spread through the body and that kills in excess of 2000 people in the UK every year. Spending long periods of time in the sun, or on sunbeds, is a major risk factor for melanoma.
The Devonshire Clinic offers a complete skin cancer screening service with mole check on an annual basis for private patients.
To find out more or book an appointment contact our private dermatology clinic in London.