A study tested the progression of a new drug and its efficacy towards helping skin cancer patients. This study had results demonstrating survival of at least three years where previously patients were given prognoses of just a few months.
The drug targets the immune system after a patient has been diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer.
Approximately 40% of melanoma patients in the study were still alive three years later. Former President Jimmy Carter was treated with this drug after he was diagnosed last summer with melanoma that had spread to his brain.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Caroline Robert, explained that “these patients would be dead if it was five years ago” without the aid of this new drug.
The drug is Keytruda and it is part of a new class of genetically engineered anti-body based medicines. Cancers grow because proteins prevent the immune system from attacking cancerous cells. This immune targeting drug will block such proteins allowing the immune system to function correctly and recognize and kill the cells.
Immunotherapy is much less toxic than chemotherapy and is transforming the treatment of cancer.
This study provides the best long-term data ever for the treatment of melanoma skin cancer that has progressed and spread to other organs, explained Dr. Robert.
Carter has received this drug treatment after his diagnosis last summer and is responding well. He announced in March that he no longer needs treatment for cancer.
Cleveland Clinic cancer specialist, Dr. Dale Shepard, stated that the “drug has kept the disease under control and has been well-tolerated.”
Former President Carter is now 91 and was seen exuberant earlier this month when he helped to give an honorary humanities degree to Gregg Allman at Georgia’s Mercer University where Carter acts as a trustee.
The study of Keytruda was followed up with over 650 patients and led to the approval of Keytruda in 2014 for advanced melanoma.
Of this study, 85 patients remain cancer free which raises hope for an eventual cure.
The Keytruda study was released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology at a news briefing.
Approximately 77,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in a year and from that, 10,000 people will pass away from the disease. Although melanoma is much less common than other skin cancers, it is much more aggressive and likely to spread to other organs.
This drug acts a game-changer and allows for many patients to return to work and live productive lives after treatment.