Patients with a type of advanced skin cancer have a new treatment option as pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda, has been recommended for use on the Cancer Drugs Fund.

This recommendation applies to adults who have melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes, an important part of the body’s natural defence system.

Pembrolizumab would be offered to patients who have already had surgery to remove the cancer. Called an adjuvant immunotherapy, it aims to remove any cancer left behind.

Meindert Boysen, director for NICE’s Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “There are currently no adjuvant immunotherapies recommended by NICE for people who have had surgery to remove their melanoma, a disease which even after surgical removal, has a high risk of recurrence.

“With support from the company, and NHS England, we will be able to publish final guidance almost at the same time as the license for this indication is granted. It highlights the speed at which NICE is able to evaluate important new treatment options so they can be offered to patients as quickly as possible.”

Pembrolizumab is administered by an IV drip every three weeks. It will be available to patients once its marketing authorisation has been received, which is anticipated to be early December 2018.

Around 15,906 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the UK each year, making it the fifth most common type of cancer.