NICE recommends treatment for non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer

Pembrolizumab with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy has been recommended by NICE to treat non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer

The UK National Institute of Health and are excellence (NICE) has published draft guidance approving Keytruda (pembrolizumab) with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy, to treat patients with non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The treatment will now be available for patients on the UK National Health Service (NHS). 

The draft guidance means pembrolizumab with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy will be available as a potentially life-extending first-line treatment option for adults whose tumours have no epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-positive or anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive mutations.

Produced by Merck, the combination treatment was previously available to people through the Cancer Drugs Fund and has now been approved for routine commissioning on the NHS. Around 3,000 people will be eligible for this treatment in England.

Previously, standard care for tumours that have no EGFR-positive or ALK-positive mutations depended on PD-L1 status. The new draft guidance means people with advanced non-squamous NSCLC will now be eligible for pembrolizumab with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy for up to two years, regardless of their PD-L1 status.

Clinical trial evidence suggests that patients live longer when treated with the pembrolizumab combination treatment compared with standard chemotherapy. However, there was no change in overall survival in patients with a PD-L1 positive tumour with a score of 50 percent or more when compared to those treated with pembrolizumab monotherapy, which is standard care for this patient group.

Meindert Boysen, director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “Through the Cancer Drugs Fund, pembrolizumab with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy has shown the potential to extend the lives of thousands of individuals, and we are pleased to now be able to recommend the treatment routinely.”

NICE expects to publish final guidance on the recommendation in March 2021.