Keytruda helps many patients with lung cancer.
In a new study including Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital researchers, the cancer immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda), increased survival for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a disease once considered an aggressive, and uniformly fatal cancer. The findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago.
“This represents a tectonic shift in the treatment of lung cancer,” said study co-author Joseph Paul Eder, MD, professor of medicine (medical oncology) in the Phase I Clinical Trials Program at YCC. “Five years ago, no one with this advanced cancer would have survived. Now that we have patients with progression free survival for at least five years, we can consider them cured.”
The new results show that five years after treatment, 18 percent of 550 patients treated had survived and the survival rate was highest (23.2 percent) in treatment “naïve” patients compared with 15.5 percent in patients who had received cancer treatments
While this study evaluated pembrolizumab as stand-alone therapy, other KEYNOTE studies have shown that combining the drug with chemotherapy or other treatments increases survival even more, based on early results, Eder said. This study is the first trial to evaluate pembrolizumab in advanced lung cancer, and they provide the longest efficacy/safety follow-up for NSCLC patients treated with the drug.
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