Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) has welcomed a decision to recommend a crucial drug to treat early-stage triple negative breast cancer for a government subsidy.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) announced on Friday that Keytruda (pembrolizumab), a type of immunotherapy is now indicated to treat early-stage triple negative breast cancer, will be recommended for subsidy on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Keytruda is a type of immunotherapy called an immune checkpoint inhibitor. They block proteins that stop the immune system from attacking the cancer cells, reducing the risk of the cancer coming back.
Keytruda is one of the first immunotherapies that is shown to be effective for early-stage TNBC. When combined with chemotherapy following surgery, it can significantly reduce the risk of cancer recurrence when compared to chemotherapy alone.
Around 15 per cent of breast cancers are triple negative. In Australia, that equates to approximately 3000 new cases each year, making the listing of new treatments on the PBS imperative.
When combined with chemotherapy following surgery, Keytruda is shown to significantly reduce cancer recurrence when compared to chemotherapy alone.
Earlier this year, PBAC recommended Keytruda for a PBS subsidy for metastatic triple negative breast cancer.
BCNA Director Policy, Advocacy and Support Services Vicki Durston said PBAC’s decision to also recommend Keytruda for high-risk early-stage breast cancer is good news.
‘Triple negative breast cancer is typically more aggressive, has fewer treatment options, and disproportionately affects younger women,’ Ms Durston said.
‘We know that as many as 40 per cent 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.
BCNA Consumer Representative Dr Na’ama Carlin, was recommended Keytruda as a treatment regime last year, but at an enormous personal expense at the time.
I would not have been able to afford Keytruda without crowdfunding.
'Being diagnosed with cancer during my pregnancy, I would have done anything to help my chances of survival. I would not have been able to afford Keytruda without crowdfunding.'
'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 to this lifesaving and life-extending medication.'
BCNA will continue to work with both the pharmaceutical company and government to ensure Keytruda is listed on the PBS a soon as possible.
Other outcomes from PBAC's July 2023 meeting include:
The PBAC also made an amendment to a previous positive recommendation on Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan), for the treatment of HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer.
The new recommendation is for patients who have progressed following treatment with at least one prior HER2 directed regimen for metastatic disease or relapsed during or within six months of receiving HER2 directed adjuvant therapy.
This increases the number of people eligible for Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan) which is great news.
BCNA was disappointed to learn that the PBAC did not recommend the listing of Trodelvy (sacituzumab govitecan) for people with HR+, HER2- metastatic breast cancer at this meeting, but nominated it for an early re-entry pathway. Trodelvy is already included on the PBS to treat metastatic TNBC.
BCNA will now work with industry and government to advocate for Trodelvy to be reconsidered by the PBAC for HR+, HER2- metastatic breast cancer as soon as possible.
Reducing the financial burden of a breast cancer diagnosis, and increasing equity of access to new treatments and drugs are key priorities of our Policy & Advocacy Strategy.
If you have any questions about any of the drugs in this article, we encourage you to speak to your treating team.