The Sottish Medicine Consortium (SMC) have issued a final decision to recommend the pembrolizumab plus axitinib combination as a first-line treatment for advanced kidney cancer.

We are delighted that as from today, kidney cancer patients in Scotland can get NHS funding for pemrolizumab in combination with axitinib for untreated patients with advanced or metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

However, this decision comes with certain restrictions, for example the treatment is subject to a two-year clinical stopping rule and the decision was based on a NHS Scotland Patient Access Scheme (PAS) for cost-effectiveness.

Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy and axitinib is a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) which act by boosting the immune system and interfering with the growth of the tumour, respectively. The combination has been shown to extend progression-free and overall survival compared with standard treatment with sunitinib. However, overall survival data remain immature.

KCSN was a consultant for the SMC health technology appraisal of pembrolizumab plus axitinib, and have been heavily involved in the submission of a proposal to support this drug combination. This advice takes account of views from a Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) meeting, in which KCSN represented the patient voice.

The combination was approved for untreated advanced RCC by the European Medicines Agency in September 2019 and is available in the USA and Canada.

Rose Woodward, Founder of KCSN and a patient herself, said; “This is fantastic news from the Scottish Medicines Consortium that kidney cancer patients in Scotland will now have access to this innovative and clinically effective drug combination fully funded by the Scottish Government. But we know the heartache this will cause patients and their families in England who have been told the same treatment will not be funded by the NHS for them. Cancer patients need consistency from the regulatory bodies in the UK. All kidney cancer patients must be treated equally and given access to the latest most effective treatments.”

If you have any questions about this news, please get in touch with Rose or Karen at the KCSN.

See the pembrolizumab/axitinib public information summary on the SMC website here

This is yet another innovative treatment for kidney cancer that will make a huge difference to patients’ lives. Research, especially for biomarkers, is important to understand which drugs will work for which patients. Scientists and researchers constantly strive for a potential cure for this devastating disease.