A new cancer initiative that funds safer cancer drugs will be critical in minimising the impact on people with cancer and ensuring their survival during the pandemic, according to Cancer Research UK.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced that £160 million would be spent to ensure that thousands of patients can continue to receive safe, effective and kinder treatment during the pandemic, often with fewer hospital visits.

A series of deals struck between the NHS and pharma companies means that under these new options patients can take tablets at home or receive medicines with fewer side-effects instead of undergoing hospital-based treatment that can leave them more susceptible to coronavirus and other infections.

Cancer doesn’t stop because of a pandemic

Targeted hormone therapies such as enzalutamide for prostate cancer and broadened use of lenalidomide in the treatment of myeloma – bone marrow cancer – are among the options now available for clinicians and patients.

Covid-secure cancer hubs have been set up to safely provide surgery for those who need it.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This is encouraging news for some patients, who could now go ahead with their treatment, when it might have previously been on hold due to Covid-19. In recent years, successful price negotiations between the NHS and drug manufacturers have significantly improved patients’ access to new cancer medicines, but cancer doesn’t stop because of a pandemic, so it’s fantastic to see this work continuing throughout this difficult period.

“Steps like this to adapt the care patients can be offered together with the creation of COVID-protected safe spaces, will be critical in minimising the impact on people with cancer and ensuring their survival.”