Researchers have created a new type of drug that launches the body’s own immune system to fight tumors. This new drug not only helps fight melanoma, but lung cancer too.
The drug, called Keytruda, is new to the market. Over the past weekend two studies were realized that show that this drug works better than an older drug used against melanoma. The two studies also show that Keytruda can stall lung cancer in certain patients.
The drug doesn’t focus on where cancer starts but the genetic mutation that causes the cancer. For example, a lung tumor in one patient may be genetically similar to melanoma in another patient.
One study tested Keytruda in 495 lung cancer patients. The study found that the drug worked in about 19% of the patients. Although it was not a cure, it offered hope to people with lung cancer, the world’s biggest cancer killer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. This year alone, it will be diagnosed in more than 224,000 people this year and it will kill nearly 160,000.
Researchers found that in most of the patients that Keytruda worked for, the cancer stopped growing for about a year and some patients have yet to see the cancer come back.
About ¼ of the lung cancer patients in the study had a mutation in PD-L1 and patients with that mutation tended to benefit the most from the drug.
The second study compared Keytruda to another immunotherapy drug called Yervoy in 830 patients with melanoma.
After 1 year, 74% of the patients who received Keytruda every two weeks were still alive. In comparison 68% of patients who received Keytruda every three were still alive a year later. Finally only 58% of patients who received Yervoy were still alive a year later.