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CAR-T approved in Scotland for childhood leukaemia but not adult lymphoma

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11 Feb 2019

Children and young people in Scotland with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) who relapse after standard treatments will be able to access the CAR-T cell therapy Kymriah, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) announced today (Monday 11 February).

A cancer researcher prepares medication in laboratory

CAR-T therapy is a ground-breaking form of treatment that modifies patients’ own immune cells in a laboratory to recognise, seek out and kill cancer cells.

The SMC did not approve another type of CAR-T therapy, Yescarta, for adults in Scotland who relapse after treatment for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of blood cancer. Yescarta was made available for DLBCL in England last year through its Cancer Drugs Fund.

Related story: What is CAR-T therapy? An expert explains

People with DLBCL who relapse after two or more rounds of chemotherapy have an extremely poor chance of survival when treated with further intensive chemotherapy. Clinical trials have shown that Yescarta could provide a long-term cure for four out of 10 of these patients.

The pharmaceutical company that makes Yescarta will now have to resubmit an application to the SMC in an attempt to get the therapy approved.

We supported the approval of both Kymriah and Yescarta during the SMC’s consultation process.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research and Patient Experience at Bloodwise, said: “Current intensive treatments cure most children with ALL, but a small number still die in Scotland each year. The approval of Kymriah for use on the NHS will give children and their families another chance of a cancer-free future.

"CAR-T therapy can also offer the last and only hope of long-term survival for adults with the most common type of lymphoma who do not respond to chemotherapy. While the cost of Yescarta is high and NHS Scotland does not have unlimited resources, patients in Scotland need access to this lifeline, like their counterparts in England.

“The issue of cost is likely to reoccur as more CAR-T therapies are considered for funding. We hope that all parties can work to find an affordable solution that will allow patients in Scotland to benefit from these lifesaving treatments.”

More information on today’s decision is available on the SMC website.

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