Lung cancer

SCLC patients to gain PBS access to immunotherapy

Wednesday, 19 Feb 2020

New PBS listings from 1 March will include the first immunotherapy (atezolizumab) subsidised for small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and durvalumab for NSCLC.

Atezolizumab (Tecentriq, Roche) will be have its PBS listing expanded to include first-line treatment of patients with extensive-stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC) in combination with a platinum-based chemotherapy and etoposide.

Around 1,000 patients per year are expected to benefit from the  anti PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Without PBS subsidy, patients might otherwise pay more than $50,900 per course of treatment.

The listing was welcomed by medical oncologist Dr Steven Kao of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Sydney, who said chemotherapy has been the standard treatment option for many decades for people diagnosed with ES-SCLC.

“Survival rates for SCLC are unacceptably low. This is partly due to the aggressive, fast-growing nature of the disease, and to the few recent advances in the management of SCLC.

“Reimbursement of ES-SCLC treatments is an important step forward, potentially in both prolonging, and improving the quality of life for all Australians diagnosed with this devastating disease,” he said in a media statement issued by Roche.

Professor Michael Boyer AM, Chief Clinical Officer, Conjoint Chair of Medical Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Sydney said most patients with SCLC were diagnosed at a very late stage, often after the cancer has already spread, making it very challenging to treat.

“SCLC spreads rapidly and has a higher propensity than other cancers to spread to the brain, with 40-50% of patients developing brain metastases. The disease also commonly spreads to the liver, bones and adrenal glands. These debilitating symptoms, coupled with the stigma surrounding lung cancer and its poor survival rates, can significantly compromise the psychological wellbeing and social lives of those living with the disease, and their loved ones,” he said.

In addition, durvalumab (Imfinzi, AstraZeneca) will be listed from 1 March for for treatment of patients with unresectable Stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease has not progressed following platinum-based chemoradiation therapy.

More than 1,300 patients per year are expected to benefit from the listing, which would cost more $100,000 per course of treatment without a subsidy.

The listings follow recommendations from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) in November 2019.

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