The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has expedited the availability of the new drug, Belumosudil (Rezurock), for cancer patients with chronic graft versus host disease (GVHD).

The decision provides a treatment that can be administered in the at-home setting, reducing hospital visits.

Administered as a once-daily tablet, Belumosudil hinders proteins that trigger the severe inflammatory response linked to chronic GVHD.

Clinical trials have demonstrated that up to three-quarters of the subjects responded to the therapy, with significant effectiveness in treating symptoms affecting the mouth, intestine or joints.

The treatment is accessible through the NHS England’s Innovative Medicines Fund, which fast-tracks the delivery of the most promising non-cancer drugs to patients.

Chronic GVHD is a rare but serious condition that can occur after a life-saving stem cell transplant. White blood cells in the donated tissue attack the patient’s organs and weaken their immune system.

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Approximately one-third of patients who receive stem cell or bone marrow transplants for blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma can develop chronic GVHD.

Around 1,200 patients in England undergo such transplants each year. Around 400 go on to develop the condition, which is sometimes mild but for one in ten cases is fatal.

For half of patients with chronic GVHD, existing therapies such as pentostatin, rituximab and imatinib are ineffective.

Belumosudil will now be made available for 200 severely affected patients who have not responded to two previous therapies.

This development comes after the NHS decided to fast-track the funding for the drug based on clinical guidance from the UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Belumosudil is the fourth therapy offered to patients through the Innovative Medicines Fund.

In September 2023, the NHS used the fund to roll out Sebelipase alfa, a therapy for treating Wolman’s disease, a rare genetic ailment.

NHS England specialised services medical director James Palmer stated: “This rollout is a real breakthrough for patients with graft versus host disease and it will help people living with this debilitating condition effectively manage their symptoms and enhance their quality of life and daily functioning.

“It’s great news that the NHS has been able to fast-track funding for a treatment which will have a significant impact for hundreds of patients over the coming years.”