BCNA welcomes decision to recommend Keytruda for subsidy

breast cancer

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) – Australia’s leading voice for people affected by breast cancer – has welcomed a decision to recommend a crucial drug to treat early-stage triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) for a government subsidy.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) announced on Friday that Keytruda (pembrolizumab) will be recommended for subsidy on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for early-stage TNBC.

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 cancer diagnoses are triple negative. In Australia, that equates to approximately 3000 new cases each year.

BCNA Director Policy, Advocacy and Support Services Vicki Durston said the 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.