Three new breast and lung cancer treatments have been approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for use on the NHS in Scotland.

Tucatinib (Tukysa) and trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu) have both been approved to treat adults with breast cancer, while osimertinib (Tagrisso) has been approved to treat adults with advanced non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose cancer calls have mutated.

Tucatinib will be used in combination with trastuzumab and capecitabine to treat adults with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer who have already received at least 2 anti-HER2-based treatments; whereas trastuzumab deruxtecan has been provisionally approved to treat the same patients who couldn’t receive surgery.

Trastuzumab deruxtecan is available to patients now but is still under review and will be reassessed once more research has been done.

More research needs to be done to confirm drug’s efficacy

David Ferguson, public affairs manager for Cancer Research UK in Scotland described the medicine as a “breakthrough treatment” for people with HER2 positive breast cancer that can’t be removed by surgery, or whose cancer has spread.

“Recent and ongoing studies suggest that the drug could give patients with HER2 positive breast cancer more time before their disease progresses. Today’s decision means people will have early access to this promising new medicine while the Scottish Medicines Consortium gathers further evidence in advance of its final decision,” he added.

With around two in 10 breast cancers testing positive for the HER2 protein, which encourages cancer growth and makes the disease more aggressive, Cancer Research UK say new treatments are desperately needed. However, while the current evidence is promising, more research needs to be done to confirm its efficacy.

“A significant leap forward”

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now, said: "The SMC's approval of these treatments marks a significant leap forward for certain women living with incurable HER2 positive secondary breast cancer.”

"Availability of the Tukysa combination will provide an important new option for certain people whose breast cancer has spread to the brain, who for too long have faced potentially shorter prognoses and poorer quality of life.

"For women who've progressed beyond two or more targeted treatments, access to Enhertu and the Tukysa combination could now give patients more time before their disease progresses and extend their lives, offering them precious extra time with loved ones,” she added.

Osimertinib could have fewer side effects and increase survival rates in patients with NSCLC

The third drug approved by the SMC, osimertinib, is thought to have fewer side effects than other treatments for NSCLC and could also increase survival rates. The drug works by blocking a faulty version of a molecule called EGFR, which drives the growth of the cancer cells.

Ferguson has welcomed the approval of the new drug, saying: “As Scotland is the only part of the UK where lung cancer is the most common cancer, it’s great news that a better treatment option is being made available for people with advanced forms of the disease.”

One immunotherapy drug, however, nivolumab (Opdivo) in combination with ipilimumab (Yervoy) and platinum-based chemotherapy was rejected as a treatment option for NSCLC as the evidence “wasn’t strong enough to satisfy the committee of its cost effectiveness,” according to Mark MacGregor, chairman of the SMC.