NHS answers our call: men with newly diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer can access treatment during covid-19 crisis
Thanks to you, treatments that are as effective as chemotherapy are now available for men to take at home.
We’re delighted that NHS England have agreed to our call to make targeted drugs enzulatamide and abiraterone available for men with advanced prostate cancer during the covid-19 crisis. These drugs are safer than chemotherapy and just as effective in terms of extending life.
In March, it became clear the Covid-19 crisis would stop use of chemotherapy and men’s lives could be shortened by more than a year without a similar treatment. When the crisis led to a nationwide lockdown, we took decisive action to push for alternative treatment options to ensure men would still be able to access life-extending treatment safely.
Now NHS England have responded to our call to make enzulatamide available, as well as abiraterone for some men. These drugs would put them at less risk of COVID-19 than chemotherapy and are just as effective in terms of extending life.
During the coronavirus crisis, we're working hard to make sure research progress is not lost while labs are closed, and we're making sure men are supported with the information and emotional support they need at this difficult time. And crucially, because many men faced uncertainty around their treatment options due to restrictions on NHS services and new safety regulations, we're also sharing knowledge and engaging with healthcare professionals and government bodies to ensure men can get access to the best possible care, while staying safe.
Men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body) are usually offered chemotherapy as standard treatment in the UK. However, during the covid-19 crisis, chemotherapy is not available because of the high risk of contracting the virus during the course of treatment. This is because of the social contact required to administer chemotherapy, the multiple trips to the hospital, and the impact the treatment has on the immune system. To reduce this risk during the pandemic, men with a new diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer have been given hormone therapy instead, but this does not have the same life-extending effects as chemotherapy, which offers an average of 15 months of additional life.
Your support allows us to act decisively in a crisis
When the covid-19 crisis struck, and chemotherapy treatments were delayed, we had to act immediately. We knew there were effective treatments available that could offer the same benefits without the risk of chemotherapy, because they come in the form of pills that can be taken at home. Scotland and Wales had already made these drugs available for some men. Six weeks ago we urged NHS England to make these treatments available for men in England.
Today, we’re delighted to announce that NHS England have responded to our call to replace chemotherapy with enzalutamide during the Covid-19 pandemic so that men with newly diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer can get the additional months of life that chemotherapy provides without increasing their risk from the virus. Men who cannot tolerate enzalutamide can receive abiraterone.
Neither of these treatments are available on the NHS for men at this stage of the disease, which is why this is such a great achievement.
What are these treatments?
Both enzalutamide and abiraterone are anti-androgen treatments that work by blocking the effect of the hormone testosterone on prostate cancer cells. Without testosterone, the prostate cancer cells can’t grow, even if they have spread to other parts of the body.
Heather Blake, Director of Support & Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK said: “This is fantastic news for newly-diagnosed men. Until now, they have been faced with the distressing prospect that chemotherapy, which could extend their life by 15 months, was not being made available due to the increased risk from Covid-19.
We are delighted that NHS England have taken the landmark decision to make these drugs available and that men across the UK can now benefit from these life-extending treatments.
“These treatments have been shown to offer the same benefits as chemotherapy but without the additional risks. We are therefore delighted that NHS England have taken the landmark decision to make these drugs available and that men across the UK can now benefit from these life-extending treatments.”
The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t just disrupted healthcare – it’s disrupting our research and every aspect of our work. But men need your help more than ever. It’s thanks to your support that we can achieve big wins like this one, and with your continued support we can stand for men through this crisis. Donate today.