Keytruda, an immunotherapy, has been recommended for PBS listing for early-stage triple negative breast cancer.
The PBAC has recommended immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for listing on the PBS for early-stage triple negative, or hormone receptor negative, breast cancer.
Around 15% of all breast cancers are triple negative – meaning the cancer cells lack receptors for estrogen, progesterone and HER-2/neu hormones – constituting approximately 2500 new cases a year in Australia.
“Triple negative breast cancer is typically more aggressive, has fewer treatment options, and disproportionately affects younger women,” said Vicki Durston, director of Policy, Advocacy and Support Services at Breast Cancer Network Australia, which welcomed the decision.
“We know that as many as 40% of those with triple negative breast cancer will have a recurrence. New treatments like Keytruda that reduce this risk are vital at improving outcomes for those who have one of the rarer forms of breast cancer,” Ms Durston said.
At present, patients with early negative breast cancer have lower survival rates than other breast cancer types and there are no treatments specifically targeting this type of cancer.
Keytruda is one of the first immunotherapies effective against triple negative breast cancer. It works by inhibiting checkpoint inhibitor protein binding, thereby preventing the signals that stop T cells from killing cancer cells and reducing the risk of relapse.
Keytruda has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of cancer recurrence when combined with chemotherapy after surgery, compared to chemotherapy alone.
Speaking as a consumer representative for BCNA, Dr Na’ama Carlin said crowdfunding was her only option when she was recommended Keytruda for her cancer diagnosed during pregnancy last year.
“We know that Keytruda can increase the survival rates of triple negative breast cancer patients. We need to ensure that every person can afford to access this lifesaving and life-extending medication,” Dr Carlin said.
BCNA said it would work with the government to ensure the speedy listing of Keytruda on the PBS.