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Scotland becomes first UK nation to approve a potentially life-extending cervical cancer drug 

Mon, 13/02/2023 - 14:29

Today the Scottish Medicines Consortium have approved the use of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for advanced cervical cancer in Scotland. Ongoing studies show it can slow the progression of cervical cancer and increase survival. 

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust have been campaigning for pembrolizumab to be available routinely for advanced cervical cancer through the NHS across the UK. 

Samantha Dixon, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said:  

“Those diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer have few options when it comes to treatment. It is a much-overlooked area and so we are delighted that pembrolizumab has been approved for use in Scotland. It will give new options, hope and most importantly time to those living with advanced cervical cancer.  Too frequently we hear from women having to fight for access to new treatments, with their options affected by where they live and sadly sometimes their wealth. We hope to see other UK nations follow and end the postcode lottery of care for advanced cervical cancer.” 

Scotland is currently the only UK nation to offer pembrolizumab on the NHS. An announcement from the National Institute for Health and Excellence (NICE) is expected soon with a decision over offering the treatment in England. Pembrolizumab is currently used across the UK to treat other cancer patients, for example for non-small cell lung cancer patients, and patients with advanced triple negative breast cancer. 

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust are calling for swift action to right this access inequity within the UK, saying that targeted treatments for advanced cervical cancer are currently limited to just one drug – bevacizumab (Avastin).  The UK’s leading cervical cancer charity says it is unacceptable that there are so few options available for women with a diagnosis of advanced cervical cancer, and that women living with their diagnoses are left with no alternatives and robbed of precious time at the end of their lives having to fight for access. 

3,200 women and people with a cervix are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK, and around 800 lose their lives.  

Women who have been treated with pembrolizumab have said: 

"The day I was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer, my oncologist spoke to me about a new-to-cervical cancer drug, pembrolizumab, that was being administered to patients at the Marsden for the first time on a compassionate basis. After three infusions, including carboplatin, taxol and bevacizumab alongside pembrolizumab, I was given a midpoint PET scan which showed a “complete metabolic response” – the very best possible outcome.   

“When I tell other women with advanced cervical cancer about being on pembrolizumab, all have said it was not made available to them, but they wished it were. I sometimes feel guilty for having been “at the right place, at the right time” because I certainly did nothing else to set me apart from these women to get access. Most of them wondered if I had gone the private route, which I hadn’t, and no one should not have to. I am very grateful to the Royal Marsden and the NHS for allowing me to receive this treatment, but why can’t my friends? To say we live in an unequal world is putting it mildly.” 

Ends

For interviews, further comment or case studies, contact: [email protected] or call 07772 290 064 or 07800 825 051. 

Notes: 

  • Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, providing information and support to anyone affected, and campaigning for excellence in cervical cancer treatment, care, and prevention. Its national Helpline is free, confidential, and available on 0808 802 8000. www.jostrust.org.uk