(Reuters) - Britain's state-run national health service will be the first in the world to offer an injection that treats cancer to hundreds of patients in England which could cut treatment times by up to three quarters.
Following approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), NHS England said on Tuesday hundreds of eligible patients treated with the immunotherapy, atezolizumab, were set to have "under the skin" injection, which will free up more time for cancer teams.
"This approval will not only allow us to deliver convenient and faster care for our patients, but will enable our teams to treat more patients throughout the day," Dr Alexander Martin, a consultant oncologist at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said.
NHS England said atezolizumab, also known as Tecentriq, is usually given to patients intravenously, directly into their veins via a drip, which could often take around 30 minutes or up to an hour for some patients when it can be difficult to access a vein.
"It takes approximately seven minutes, compared with 30 to 60 minutes for the current method of an intravenous infusion," Marius Scholtz, Medical Director at Roche Products Limited said.
Atezolizumab - made by Genentech, a Roche company - is an immunotherapy drug that empowers a patient's own immune system to seek and destroy cancerous cells. The treatment is currently offered by transfusion to NHS patients with a range of cancers, including lung, breast, liver and bladder.
NHS England said it expected the majority of around 3,600 patients starting the treatment of atezolizumab every year in England to switch onto the time-saving injection.
But added that patients receiving intravenous chemotherapy in combination with atezolizumab may remain on the transfusion.
(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Sandra Maler)