England green-lights coverage of one CAR T-cell therapy


The National Health Service (NHS) of England has announced that tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah), a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, will soon be available for certain leukemia patients.

Tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) is approved in the U.S. for pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia and adult patients with relapsed/refractory large B-cell lymphoma. Courtesy Novartis

Tisagenlecleucel will be available through the Cancer Drugs Fund, and patients could potentially begin receiving the treatment within weeks.

NHS England struck a deal with Novartis to lower the price of tisagenlecleucel, which costs around £282,000 per patient at its full list price. The discount offered to the NHS is confidential.

Tisagenlecleucel was recently approved by the European Commission (EC) to treat patients up to 25 years of age who have B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory, in relapse post transplant, or in second or later relapse.

The EC also approved tisagenlecleucel to treat adults with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) who have received two or more lines of systemic therapy.

However, tisagenlecleucel will be available only for ALL patients in England, at least initially. A decision has not been made regarding funding for tisagenlecleucel in DLBCL, and Novartis previously decided to launch tisagenlecleucel in ALL first.

“It’s fantastic news for children and young people with this form of leukemia that CAR T-cell therapy will be made available on the NHS, making them the first in Europe to have routine access to this exciting new type of immunotherapy,” said Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician.

The first three NHS hospitals to go through the international accreditation process for the provision of tisagenlecleucel are in London, Manchester, and Newcastle. Subject to passing accreditation requirements, the first treatments could begin in a matter of weeks.

Another CAR T-cell therapy, axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta), has not fared as well as in England. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently issued draft guidance recommending against the use of axicabtagene ciloleucel in England.

Axicabtagene ciloleucel was approved by the EC to treat patients with relapsed/refractory DLBCL or primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma who have received two or more lines of systemic therapy. However, NICE said it isn’t clear how much of a benefit axicabtagene ciloleucel may provide over salvage chemotherapy. NICE also said the price of axicabtagene ciloleucel is too high for the therapy to be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources, and the therapy does not meet the criteria for inclusion in the Cancer Drugs Fund.

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