The National Health Service of England (NHS England), the publicly funded healthcare system serving English residents, has recently made a significant change that will impact many patients receiving cancer treatment. The new strategy, announced yesterday (August 29, 2023), applies to hundreds of patients treated with a programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) blocker called atezolizumab (Tencentriq®). Atezolizumab treats various types of cancer, including breast, bladder, liver, and lung malignancies.
When activated, PD-L1, an immune checkpoint protein found in high quantities on some types of cancer cells, prevents the anti-tumor immune response from working against the cancer. PD-L1 binds to a protein called protein death 1 (PD-1) located on immune cells. In turn, the engagement of PD-1 and PD-L1 serves as a so-called “break” on the immune system, thus allowing PD-L1-containing cancer cells to evade anti-tumor immunity. To target this pathway, oncologists have an arsenal of different PD-1 and PD-L1 blocking drugs (also known as immune checkpoint inhibitors) used to treat various types of cancer.
Produced in liquid form, oncologists administer atezolizumab intravenously through an infusion using an IV drip setup. A typical treatment session can take anywhere from about thirty minutes to an hour. Depending on the type of cancer, clinical characteristics, and the patient's overall health, atezolizumab may be needed once every two, three, or four weeks. Each drug infusion requires a hospital visit during which the patient receives the drug.
According to the press release by the NHS England, the new approach to atezolizumab administration will cut the process down to a seven-minute injection. Patients at NHS England will now receive atezolizumab via an injection under the skin (subcutaneous). In addition to saving time for patients and the healthcare team alike, the subcutaneous injection proves less invasive, making it more comfortable for the patient.
Upon this institutional change, the NHS England will become the first health system in the world to offer this time-saving option. The availability of subcutaneous injections of atezolizumab could impact about 3,600 patients treated in England annually.
The process modification in England pertains only to patients treated with atezolizumab alone, not patients receiving atezolizumab in combination with intravenous chemotherapy. In the latter cases, patients will continue to receive atezolizumab intravenously.
Source: NHS England