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NHS rolls out new treatment for women with advanced endometrial cancer

Nearly two thirds of patients treated with dostarlimab alongside standard chemotherapy had not seen their cancer progress after 12 months of treatment

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The NHS is to roll out a new immunotherapy that could offer women with advanced endometrial cancer significant extra time before their disease progresses.

Trials have shown that adding dostarlimab (Jemperli) to chemotherapy can slow the spread of certain forms of endometrial cancer, giving patients the hope of more time to live well before their condition worsens.

The NHS will begin offering the treatment this week, following approval by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and it is estimated that around 150-200 women living with advanced primary or recurrent endometrial cancer will be eligible each year.

Dostarlimab is a type of immunotherapy known as a “checkpoint inhibitor”, which works by attaching to a specific protein (PD-L1) on the surface of the cancer cells, helping the body’s immune system to detect and attack them.

Clinical trials showed that nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of patients treated with dostarlimab alongside standard chemotherapy had not seen their cancer progress after 12 months of treatment, more than twice the rate seen in patients treated with chemotherapy alone (24 per cent).

The NHS has fast-tracked the treatment through its Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). The treatment will be offered to women whose advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer has certain genetic profiles known as high microsatellite instability (MSI) or mismatch repair deficiency (dMMR), which are present in around a quarter of womb cancers.

Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women in the UK, with around 9,400 women diagnosed with womb cancer every year.

Endometrial cancer is the most common type of womb cancer, and while it often has a better prognosis than other womb cancers if diagnosed early, advanced or recurrent endometrial carcinoma can be challenging to treat with short survival times.

Sue Woodburn, 65, from Kirkby Lonsdale, living with recurrent womb cancer, said: “It’s hard to stay positive when you’re running out of options and living with cancer is taking its toll on your mental health.

“Dostarlimab has made a big difference for me. It has helped me to stay positive and hopeful that I will have a decent quality of life for a good few years yet.”

She added: “Dostarlimab allows me to have a treatment without the brutal side effects. It’s a treatment that doesn’t take over my life, that enables me to plan for the future. And it gives me belief that I might see my granddaughter start school.

“I feel so fortunate to have received this treatment – it has given me hope for the future. Cancer patients like me need hope.”

Professor Peter Clark, NHS England’s Cancer Drugs Fund lead, said: “The roll out of this drug as a first-line treatment on the NHS is great news for patients living with this type of womb cancer – this new immunotherapy could offer hundreds of women the hope of precious extra time to live well before their cancer progresses.

“We’re delighted that dostarlimab becomes the latest in a long list of cutting-edge treatments available on the NHS to help people with cancer live well with a better quality of life.”

Dr Chloe Barr, trustee and advocacy lead at Peaches Womb Cancer Trust, added: “This new treatment for primary advanced or recurrent mismatch repair deficient endometrial cancer will provide options for patients currently facing the frightening reality of very few effective anti-cancer treatments.

“Today’s decision is very welcome news, and we hope that this is just the first step towards wider availability of more effective first-line treatment options for those affected by this devastating cancer.”

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Menopause start-up bags US$60m in funding

Midi Health aims to expand access to insurance-covered care for women in midlife and beyond

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Midi Health Series B round investors and founders, pictured from left: GV Executive venture partner Cathy Friedman, Midi Health co-founder Kathleen Jordan, Midi Health co-founder Jill Herzig, Felicis Ventures general partner Victoria Treyger, Operator Collective founder Mallun Yen, Midi Health co-founder Sharon Meers, Midi Health co-founder and CEO Joanna Strober, Emerson Collective managing partner Fern Mandelbaum, SemperViren partner Allison Baum Gates, GV general partner Frederique Dame

The US menopause start-up Midi Health has secured US$60m in funding, bringing the company’s total funding raised to date to US$100m.

The funding round was led by Emerson Collective, with support from additional investors, including GV (Google Ventures), Memorial Hermann, SemperVirens, Felicis, Icon Ventures, Black Angel Group, Gingerbread Capital, Able Partners, G9 and Operator Collective.

They joined a syndicate of primarily female-led investors including F7, Steel Sky Ventures, Avestria, Muse Capital, 1843 Capital, Anne WojcickiSusan Wojcicki, and K50 Ventures.

Founded with a mission to close this care gap, Midi is now the fastest-growing virtual clinic focused on treating women in perimenopause and menopause.

The California start-up, which expanded to all 50 states in November, aims to help women navigating midlife hormonal changes.

The company provides patients with care plans that include hormonal and non-hormonal medications, supplements and lifestyle coaching and has partnerships with major healthcare systems, such as Memorial Hermann and benefits platforms, such as Progyny and Cleo.

The additional investment round is hoped to help Midi expand insurance coverage, hire and upskill an additional 150 clinicians, diversify service lines, amplify the conversation around women’s health and scale to care for over one million women per year by 2029.

“We started Midi with just one specific focus: helping women access world-class, expert perimenopause and menopause care, covered by insurance, and we have been at the forefront of delivering on that promise,” Joanna Strober, CEO and co-founder of Midi, explained.

“But what we have also learned is that addressing the health concerns of women in midlife is more complex than simply treating hot flashes and prescribing hormone replacement therapy.

“Midi takes a multi-symptom, holistic approach to care designed to help women live their best, most productive and fulfilling lives—whether that involves medication, lifestyle coaching, natural supplements, or other support.

“Our goal now is to expand services and scope to continue this comprehensive, personalised care far beyond menopause.”

Women spend more than a third of their lives in perimenopause or menopause, with more than one billion women globally expected to be in these life stages by 2030.

Upwards of 85 per cent of women will experience menopausal symptoms that can negatively impact their productivity and quality of life, yet 75 per cent of women who seek care for these symptoms do not receive any treatment.

The primary reason is that only about one in five OB/GYNs, and even fewer primary care physicians, receive specialised menopause education or training.

“Historically, women’s healthcare has been neglected, with perimenopause and menopause having significant unmet needs,” said Fern Mandelbaum of Emerson Collective.

“Midi is providing expert, empathetic care coupled with comprehensive insurance coverage, finally addressing this gap and ensuring that all women receive the support they need and deserve.”

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Start-up launches London Underground campaign to break down period stigma

The two-week campaign seeks to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstrual health

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The Irish women’s health start-up Riley has launched an ad campaign on the London Underground to “take the fear out of periods”.

Riley, an eco-friendly period product subscription service, aims to take action against period poverty and democratise access to period products.

The company seeks to encourage the introduction of menstrual health policies and foster a workplace where discussions around periods are normalised.

Its two-week London Underground campaign, which coincides with the opening of its first office in London, is hoped to help destigmatise periods and normalise conversations around menstrual health.

“The idea behind this campaign comes from the fact that free period care in the office is often seen as an employee perk or a ‘nice to have’, when it should actually be an essential offering in every office,” Meaghan Droney, eCommerce manager at Riley, told Femtech World.

“Our aim with this campaign is to flip those current mindsets and get people to change their attitudes towards period care in the workplace.

“With 79 per cent of menstruators feeling unsupported in relation to their periods at work, this oversight is clearly fundamentally unfair and it’s time for change.

“We’re encouraging any and all businesses to get in touch with us so we can support them in introducing menstrual policies and free period care in their workplace to empower all employees, no matter their gender, to thrive and feel valued at work.”

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that only 12 per cent of UK companies provide support for menstruation and menstrual health, despite 85 per cent of women experiencing stress or anxiety when managing their period at work.

Data suggests that half of the women who take absence because of their menstrual cycle feel unable to tell their manager, underscoring the deep-rooted stigma around periods.

Fiona Parfrey, co-founder of Riley, said: “Access to safe and high-quality sustainable period care products not only demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare but also fosters a culture of empathy, equality, and respect, ultimately contributing to a more engaged and empowered workforce.

“Menstrual policies and free period care are a fundamental necessity for every individual in the workplace. It’s about ensuring that employees have the resources they need to maintain their wellbeing and productivity without interruption.”

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Singapore-based fertility centre sets up grant for couples struggling to conceive

This grant aims to support eligible Singaporean couples facing financial and family planning challenges

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A Singapore-based fertility centre is to set up a grant to support couples struggling to conceive.

Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore (VFCS) announced that it would set up a grant to support aspiring parents on their IVF journey.

The initial grant is set for at $50,000 SGD and, depending on the take-up rate over the next 12 fiscal months, VFCS plans to increase the pool to benefit more couples in the subsequent years.

The grant will cover the main costs associated with IVF treatments and procedures, including embryo retrieval and transfer, laboratory services and embryo prep. It will also be applicable to fresh and frozen egg transfers.

As grant recipients, their samples will similarly be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, a service VFCS provides for all its patients. It locks the patient’s identity with the respective sample. The RFID identifies gametes—eggs, sperms, or embryos—at every stage of the IVF treatment.

According to VFCS, the grant will also include access to counselling services and wellness resources.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional toll and occasional frustration that infertility can take on individuals and couples, especially for some who are still young and healthy,” said Dr Roland Chieng, medical director at VFCS.

“The common deterrent of going for fertility treatment is always associated with the cost, more so in a private care setting where their only source of funds is through Medisave.

“By alleviating their financial concerns, we hope ReadyBaby Fertility Grant empowers patients to approach their IVF journey, focusing on their clinical needs and working towards a healthy pregnancy and less on financials.

“With access to the necessary treatments and support, patients can embark on their path to parenthood with renewed confidence, knowing they have the clinical resources and guidance they need to navigate this journey,” he added.

Tim Kwan, VFCS’s managing director, said: “We believe every couple deserves the opportunity to experience the profound joy of parenthood.

“With the ReadyBaby Fertility Grant, we aim to support aspiring couples on their IVF journey and help them bring new life into the world.”

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be married Singaporean couples diagnosed with medical infertility by a fertility specialist and first-time parents who have not tried IVF before.

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