NHS announces £160 million funding for COVID-friendly cancer treatments

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, has announced that the provision of COVID-friendly cancer treatments will be expanded through a £160 million initiative.

The funding will be used to pay for drugs that have a smaller impact on the immune system or offer other benefits such as fewer hospital visits, with the aim of making cancer treatment safer for patients during the pandemic. Thousands of patients have already benefitted from almost 50 treatments approved for use as ‘swaps’ for existing drugs, and more are expected to become available in future as deals are struck between the NHS and pharmaceutical companies.

Targeted hormone therapies such as enzalutamide for prostate cancer and broadened use of lenalidomide for the treatment of myeloma are among the options now available. Other treatment options include:

  • venetoclax in acute myeloid leukaemia as an oral alternative to more toxic standard chemotherapy
  • nivolumab for patients with bowel cancer whose cancers have a specific genetic fingerprint
  • ixazomib in myeloma as an oral alternative to treatment which would require more hospital visits and injections
  • atezolizumab as first-line immunotherapy for bladder cancer instead of chemotherapy.

It is hoped that the initiative will enable cancer treatments to go ahead when otherwise they may have been delayed or unsafe to administer.