Blood cancer patients to benefit from £3k-a-dose Trojan Horse drug

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Thousands of blood cancer patients set to benefit from new £3,000-a-dose Trojan horse drug that reduces the risk of the disease returning by a quarter

  • Some 5,500 Britons suffer from diffuse large B-cell lymphoma each year 
  •  It is hoped patients with other blood cancers could receive the drug Polivy
  • The MRHA has approved the use of the drug in newly diagnosed patients  

Thousands of blood cancer patients could receive a ‘Trojan horse’ drug which hunts out tumour cells and destroys them from the inside, after UK regulators gave the medication the green light last week.

Given as an infusion, the targeted treatment is able to cut the risk of the disease returning by a quarter.

Experts have previously hailed the drug, called Polivy, the ‘biggest breakthrough in two decades’ for sufferers of the most common type of the disease. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced it had approved the drug for use in some newly diagnosed blood cancer patients.

Experts have previously hailed the drug, called Polivy, the ‘biggest breakthrough in two decades’ for sufferers of the most common type of the disease. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced it had approved the drug for use in some newly diagnosed blood cancer patients

Britons suffering from diffuse large B-cell lymphoma – a form of the disease which affects 5,500 people every year – will be the first to benefit, but experts say patients with many other types of blood cancer could receive Polivy in the coming years. Studies show the cancer is more common in men and typically affects people in their 60s. Sufferers will usually first experience lumps, often on their neck, fatigue and drenching night sweats.

Currently, once diagnosed, these patients receive chemotherapy to fight off the cancer. Two-thirds of the time the treatment is successful, but for a third of those with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the disease will return and will be highly resistant to cancer therapies. Less than a third of lymphoma patients who relapse will survive longer than five years.

NHS spending watchdogs will now decide whether Polivy ¿ made by Roche ¿ is worth its £3,000-per-dose price tag

NHS spending watchdogs will now decide whether Polivy – made by Roche – is worth its £3,000-per-dose price tag

In December 2021, The Mail on Sunday revealed that a UK trial showed that patients who took Polivy, also called polatuzumab vedotin, in combination with several chemotherapy drugs, saw their risk of relapse reduce by a quarter.

While significantly more effective than chemo, the trial found that Polivy had no added side effects compared with the standard treatment.

Polivy is an antibody-drug conjugate. This means it uses artificial proteins to find tumours in the blood and deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the cancer cells.

NHS spending watchdogs will now decide whether Polivy – made by Roche – is worth its £3,000-per-dose price tag.

Dr Graham Collins, consultant haematologist at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and researcher on the UK Polivy trial, says the positive impact of the drug fully justifies the cost. He adds: ‘This will mean fewer relapses, which will save the NHS money in the long-run. This approval is a crucial step in the right direction for blood cancer patients.’

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