World Cancer Day: How new partnerships are helping get breakthrough cancer medicines to patients sooner

One in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime. In fact, such is the impact of this devastating disease on the NHS that cancer is named as one of the “great healthcare challenges” outlined by the government’s Life Sciences Vision. So on the 4 February, World Cancer Day 2022, we at the MHRA reflected on what we are doing to confront it.

We are committed to the timely approval of all promising new medicines, not just those relating to cancer. One only needs to look to our authorisation of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines to see this. However, several new partnerships have helped facilitate our authorisations of these cancer treatments more quickly, while maintaining our stringent standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

In January 2021, we launched a new way of bringing breakthrough medicines to patients more quickly – known as the ‘Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway’. This new pathway is a partnership with other healthcare bodies in England, Scotland and Wales.

We also joined Project Orbis, an international coalition of regulators led by the FDA working to provide faster patient access to innovative cancer treatments.

Working with these partnerships, we have recently approved new treatments for lung cancer (Rybrevant, Lumkyras, and Tepmetko) and breast cancer (Trodelvy). We have also extended the use of medicines for lung cancer (Lorviqua and Tagrisso) and oesophageal cancer (Opdivo), so that they can be used to treat more people.

Our new approval pathway builds on our forerunner initiative, the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) which has so far given hundreds of patients early access to no fewer than 12 cancer treatments. In August 2021, we also asked for public input on the scheme and the outcome has just been published.

These initiatives are examples of how collaboration, not just with the wider UK healthcare system but with patients and our partner regulators across the world, can help to bring safe, effective and timely treatments to those who need them most.

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