New combination therapy launched to treat womb cancer

Women with advanced womb cancer in the UK are to be offered a new combination therapy which could extend life expectancy for twice as long as chemotherapy. 

The drugs, pembrolizumab and lenvatinib, work together to slow the progression of the cancer, adding up to seven months onto patients’ lives. 

The new treatment was approved for use by the NHS following a clinical trial which saw a longer survival rate in patients on the combination therapy (nearly 19 months), compared to those on chemotherapy alone (just under 12 months). 

Women given the combination treatment will take pembrolizumab every three or six weeks alongside lenvatinib which is delivered orally twice a day. Another benefit is that, unlike chemotherapy, the new cancer treatment is significantly less likely to cause hair loss.

NHS national cancer director Professor Peter Johnson said: “It is fantastic news that this innovative combination therapy can now offer a new lifeline to hundreds of women living with advanced endometrial cancer, giving hope of precious extra time to live with a better quality of life.”

“Now in its 75th year, the NHS is leading the world in making the latest treatments available through its unique commercial capabilities and commitment to innovation on behalf of patients and their families across the country.”

Minister for Health Helen Whately said: “We are working with the NHS and world leading scientists to support new cancer treatments like these – improving the lives of hundreds of women diagnosed with womb cancer.

“Cancer survival rates are improving and record numbers of people are receiving treatment.

“But we know there’s more to do. That’s why today we announced our call for evidence to inform our Major Conditions Strategy – a plan to better diagnose and manage six conditions including cancer.”

Grace Teeling, 33 from Bristol received treatment with pembrolizumab after being diagnosed with advanced stage three womb cancer back in 2019. Following the treatment (and further surgery) the tumour which had kept reappearing in the bowel and pelvic area disappeared. 

She said:  “I have been incredibly fortunate to receive treatment for the past two years and I had a really good response, which means there is currently no evidence of cancer on my recent scans. It has also enabled me to thrive despite having an advanced and incurable cancer diagnosis.

“I am able to work, travel, socialise and exercise, including paddleboarding, which I may not have been able to do on chemotherapy. I am delighted others will now be able to access this treatment as I don’t think I would be alive today if I hadn’t.”