Keytruda, the recently US approved drug shows early promise for some patients with advanced lung cancer though it is approved for advanced melanoma. The drug boosts the cancer-fighting potential and the body's immune system.
Keytruda (pembrolizumab) belongs to a new group of drugs that blocks a pathway called PD-1, which then frees up the immune system to attack cancer cells approved another PD-1 drug nivolumab (Opdivo) for treating some cases of advanced lung cancer.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute estimates that only about one-third of patients see any tumor shrinkage with standard chemotherapy, and even with treatment, people typically survive for a year.
The Merck-funded study involved 495 patients in the advanced stages of non-small-cell lung cancer, and infused Keytruda every two to three weeks. Dr. Edward Garon, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and his team analyzed their tumor samples to measure levels of a protein called PD-L1 and correlate with their likelihood of responding to the treatment.
The tumors for nearly 19% patients shrunk by 30% but among patients with PD-L1 activity, 45% responded to the drug. Although Keytruda is on the market, it is not specifically approved for lung cancer yet.