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MSD’s Keytruda given go-ahead by SMC

Treatment concerns adults and adolescents with stage IIB or IIC melanoma skin cancer

MSD’s Keytruda has received a recommendation from the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for the adjuvant treatment of adults and adolescents, aged 12 years and older, with stage IIB or IIC melanoma skin cancer.

The therapy – also known as pembrolizumab – involves individuals who have already undergone complete resection.

At present, surgical resection, which includes the removal of tissue, is the first-line treatment for patients with stage IIB or IIC melanoma – one of the most prevalent cancers among young people across the UK.

During the first five years after surgery, however, it is estimated that a third of patients with stage IIB – and almost half of the patients with stage IIC – will see their cancer return. Currently, five-year melanoma-specific survival is 87% and 82% for stage IIB and IIC respectively.

Using pembrolizumab for adjuvant treatment of stage III melanoma has been reviewed by the SMC before, and was accepted for use throughout Scotland in 2019. The new recommendation for stage IIB/C melanoma addresses further unmet needs by delivering a treatment option for patients aged 12 and over who have not been able to access adjuvant immunotherapy.

Stuart Robertson, Head of Devolved Nations at MSD UK, was delighted with the positive recommendation: “Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in Scotland but is the most common for those aged 15 to 34 years of age. This allows clinicians in Scotland to reduce the chances of a patient’s skin cancer returning after surgery which is especially important for the growing number of younger people being diagnosed who have much of their life ahead of them.”

Susanna Daniels, CEO at Melanoma Focus, reflected: “Over 1200 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year in Scotland. Fear of recurrence of cancer is also a huge emotional burden for patients and families and in particular for the growing population of melanoma patients who are diagnosed at a younger age with the majority of their life ahead of them.”

She added: “It is a mark of how far we have come in recent years that we can now improve survival and significantly reduce those fears. I am thrilled that the SMC has recognised the value this treatment adds for adolescent and adult patients with high-risk stage 2 melanoma by reducing the likelihood of recurrence, and that it will now be available on a routine basis in Scotland.”