An anti-cancer jab that can cut down treatment time for some by three quarters has been rolled out by National Health Service (NHS) England, the U.K.'s publicly funded healthcare system.
The jab takes as little as 7 minutes to administer, NHS England said in a statement, adding that it will be the first health system in the world to roll out the seven-minute injection to hundreds of NHS cancer patients each year.
The vaccine has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the statement said.
MHRA is a U.K. state agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe.
Currently, the patients receive the life-extending immunotherapy atezolizumab in hospital directly into their veins via a drug transfusion (intravenously), which can take from 30 minutes to up to an hour to administer, the statement said.
This anti-cancer jab, a subcutaneous or under-the-skin injection, is swifter and is expected to enhance the patients' experience, it said.
The quicker administration could also free up valuable time for NHS cancer teams, it said.
The healthcare system of England anticipates the majority of the approximately 3,600 patients starting their annual atezolizumab treatment in England to switch onto the time-saving injection.
Atezolizumab is an immunotherapy drug, currently offered by transfusion, that empowers a patient's own immune system to seek and destroy cancerous cells. The drug is adminstered to NHS patients with a range of cancers, including lung, breast, liver and bladder.
However, patients receiving intravenous chemotherapy in combination with atezolizumab may remain on the transfusion, the statement said.
"Maintaining the best possible quality of life for cancer patients is vital, so the introduction of faster under-the-skin injections will make an important difference," said NHS National Director for Cancer, Peter Johnson.
"This is great news for both patients and clinicians. We welcome any new initiative that brings speedier treatment to patients and gives them more comfortable care," said Alexander Martin, a consultant oncologist at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.