On Monday patients in the North East with HER2-positive breast cancer will begin to receive a new injection of the drug Herceptin, given just beneath the skin.
As reported in The Journal, the jab is now authorised for use in the UK after a licence was granted this week by the European Medicines Agency. NHS England has also agreed to fund its use on the NHS.
Approval of the injection follows a clinical trial of 20 patients at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, which led the UK investigations of the new, more efficient form of treatment.
Nicola Marshall, of Heaton, Newcastle, was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer more than a year ago and has been part of the region’s clinical trial.
The 45-year-old nurse said: “I’m pleased that the injection has been given the go ahead.
“The injection is not too onerous and you don’t have to give it to yourself. It’s a small needle under the skin and it’s given over about four minutes, every three weeks.
“When you’re given drugs for cancer you don’t want to spend a long time sitting around in hospital. The injection is a really quick and safe way to get Herceptin.”
Ms Marshall, whose partner is Steve Hodson, 41, a quantity surveyor, is expected to make a full recovery from her cancer.
The Herceptin injection can be completed in two to five minutes, compared to a time-consuming 30 to 90 minute intravenous infusion.
Dr Mark Verrill, consultant medical oncologist at the Freeman Hospital, who led the clinical trial, said: “The licensing of subcutaneous Herceptin is a real boost for patients.
“We can now give Herceptin by a five minute subcutaneous injection – it’s much quicker and simpler. In a clinical study where women received treatment by both routes, the overwhelming majority preferred subcutaneous Herceptin.”
Patients could now gain up to more than an hour from each visit to the hospital for their anti-cancer therapy and 19 hours over the course of their treatment.
This has the potential to free up patients, improving their quality of life, without the feeling of being bound to an intravenous infusion.
A study has shown that nine out of 10 patients preferred a subcutaneous version of Herceptin compared to the traditional method of treatment.
It is also believed that the NHS could profit from savings valued at more than £20m nationally. The benefits could be realised by reducing drug wastage.