In a cutting-edge pioneering package, thousands more cancer patients in England will get the life-extending drugs their doctors recommend thanks to an extra £400 million invested in the Cancer Drugs Fund, David Cameron announced today.
Alongside plans to extend the fund, the cutting-edge project to map 100,000 genomes was given a boost with the announcement of a pioneering partnership between Cancer Research UK and Government-owned Genomics England, as part of the Prime Minister’s ambition for Britain to lead the world in unlocking the power of DNA data.
In order to understand which treatments and drugs will be effective, the whole DNA code of 3,000 cancer patients will be sequenced as well as a further 3,000 whole DNA sequences for their cancer tumours.
Cancer Research UK and Genomics England’s partnership is part of the Government’s commitment to make Britain the first country in the world to sequence 100,000 genomes – or individual DNA codes - within five years.
More than 34,000 patients have benefitted from the Cancer Drugs Fund since it was created in 2010. Today’s announcement means that the Fund is now confirmed for an extra two years until March 2016. The extension will allow new patients to benefit and guarantee that those currently receiving drugs will continue to get them. The new money means the amount committed will top £1 billion in total.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
When I became Prime Minister three years ago, many patients with rare cancers were being denied lifesaving treatments. That is why we created the Cancer Drugs Fund, it is why we are extending it, and it is why we are partnering with Cancer Research UK to conduct new research into the effectiveness of cancer drugs. It is only because we have protected health spending that we can afford these lifesaving treatments.
Dr Andrew Protheroe, Consultant in Medical Oncology at The Churchill Hospital in Oxford said:
The more treatment options that are available to me, the better job I feel I can do for my patients. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing there is an effective, licensed, evidence-based treatment available which I am not allowed to use. It is like trying to do your job with one hand tied behind your back. Before the Cancer Drugs Fund, doctors were not able to use a whole range of drugs which were part of standard practice in other countries. This fantastic announcement means we won’t have to go back to those days. I will be able to continue to provide the best treatments possible for my patients.
Dr Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said:
Every patient deserves the best possible treatment for their cancer. New treatments targeting the genetic changes in cancer are being developed all the time, and the Cancer Drugs Fund is a vital way for patients to get them as soon as they’ve been properly tested and shown to work. Our partnership with Genomics England builds on our research testing genetic changes in tumours to understand cancer in all its intricate detail. This rapidly-changing research field lays the foundations for even faster progress, saving many more lives from this devastating disease.
Andrew Wilson, Chief Executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation said:
This is a compassionate, common sense announcement which will be warmly welcomed by many thousands of cancer patients. The NHS should be there when you need it the most. Without the Cancer Drugs Fund, NHS access to cancer drugs would go back a generation. With it, progress can continue.
Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, added:
This announcement means that the NHS will continue to provide cancer patients with drugs that will help them to live a longer and better life. The introduction of the fund was a milestone in helping cancer patients to benefit from the best treatments in the world. Many more bowel cancer patients will now be given hope and peace of mind that these treatments will continue to be made available to them if recommended by their doctor.
The Cancer Drugs Fund allows patients to get fast access to cancer drugs which would not routinely be available on the NHS – but which their doctors believe are right for them. It was introduced after concerns were raised that too many newer cancer drugs were being denied to NHS patients.
NHS England will continue to be responsible for deciding which drugs are included in the fund. These decisions are taken by a panel of expert doctors. At the same time, the Government is working to bring about changes to the way the NHS pay for new drugs so that patients get better access to effective medicines and the NHS gets better value for money.