A life-extending lung cancer drug will be made immediately available to NHS patients in England, say advisers.  Campaigners, including the late Sunday Times restaurant critic AA Gill, have repeatedly called for access to the immunotherapy, which can add months to life. Scotland already offers nivolumab to people with advanced disease who have also tried chemotherapy.  England’s drugs watchdog had originally said nivolumab was too expensive. In new draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved nivolumab through the fast-track Cancer Drugs Fund while more evidence is gathered on its cost-effectiveness. That means some patients – about 1,300 people with advanced squamous and non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (whose tumours express a molecule called PD-L1) – will now be eligible for the drug. It is not the first immunotherapy drug available for advanced lung cancer – pembrolizumab was approved for use in December 2016 – but nivolumab hit the headlines during AA Gill’s final weeks.  He described nivolumab as “more life spent on Earth – but only if you can pay”.  Research has shown that nivolumab increases the number of patients still alive after three years of treatment by two- or three-fold, depending on the type of lung cancer they have. The former smoker was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to his neck and pancreas, with tumours that were inoperable and unsuitable for radiotherapy. Gill said he had been denied a drug – costing about £5,000 a month – that may have helped him live “considerably” longer and was the weapon of choice for “every oncologist in the First World”.

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