To ensure thousands of people can continue to receive safe, effective and kinder treatment during the pandemic, the NHS will be offering “Covid-friendly” treatments to cancer patients.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced today (Aug 3) that these treatments would be expanded and extended through a £160 million initiative.
Thousands of patients have already benefitted from almost 50 treatments approved for use as ‘swaps’ for existing drugs and more will be available from this week, the NHS said.
Some of these new options mean that 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.
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.
“Since the first case of covid in England six months ago, NHS staff have fast tracked new, innovative ways of working so that other services, including A&E, cancer and maternity could continue safely for patients and it is thanks to these incredible efforts that 65,000 people could start treatment for cancer during the pandemic,” said Sir Simon.
“We are now adopting new, kinder treatment options which are not only effective but safer for use during the Covid-19 pandemic and more convenient for thousands of patients, who can take medication at home or be given medicines with less harmful effects on their immune system.”
New analysis shows that these less risky but effective cancer therapies have been given to almost 2,000 people during the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing their treatment to go ahead when it might otherwise have been delayed or not safe to give at all.
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. Other treatments currently available include:
- Venetoclax in acute myeloid leukaemia as an oral alternative to more toxic standard chemotherapy
- Nivolumab for patients with bowel cancer whose cancers have a specific genetic fingerprint
- Ixazomib in myeloma as an oral alternative to treatment which would require more hospital visits and injections
- Atezolizumab as first-line immunotherapy for bladder cancer instead of chemotherapy
Covid-secure cancer hubs have been set up to safely provide surgery for those who need it.