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New leukaemia treatment made available in Scotland

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Updated 08 Oct 2018

A targeted drug that improves survival for people with an aggressive type of blood cancer will be made available on the NHS in Scotland.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) announced on Monday that doctors can use gemtuzumab ozogamicin, which is known by the brand name Mylotarg, to treat patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

AML is a form of cancer that affects blood cells called myeloid cells, which include red blood cells, platelets and certain types of white blood cells. Patients experience uncontrolled growth of immature myeloid cells and do not produce enough healthy blood cells.

Clinical trials have shown that long-term survival rates were over 20% higher in AML patients treated with Mylotarg and chemotherapy, compared to those treated with chemotherapy alone. 

The SMC has sanctioned the use of Mylotarg, in combination with two intensive chemotherapy drugs, for newly diagnosed AML patients whose cancer cells contain a protein known as ‘CD33’. It is estimated that around eight in 10 AML patients have the CD33 protein on the surface of their cancer cells. Mylotarg works by attaching to the protein and destroying the cancer cells.

Around 200 people are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) each year in Scotland. While younger patients have a better outlook, overall less than one in five patients survive for longer than five years after diagnosis. 

The blood cancer research charity Bloodwise supported the approval of Mylotarg during the SMC’s consultation process.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research and Patient Experience at Bloodwise, said: “A diagnosis of AML is devastating and survival rates remain ow. Despite this, the intensive chemotherapy treatment used to treat this leukaemia has changed very little in decades.

“The approval of this targeted drug represents a significant improvement on currently available treatments and will give more people with AML in Scotland the best chance of surviving their cancer.”

More information on the decision is available on the SMC website.