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Part of a new generation of immunotherapy drugs, Keytruda (pembrolizumab), was recently approved as a treatment for recurring or metastatic head and neck cancers in the island country of New Zealand. The product was already certified for a number of cases, including advanced melanoma, non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs), Hodgkin Lymphoma or urothelial cancer.
Dr. Tanguy Seiwert, associate director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program stated that “Head and neck cancer is a complex disease that historically has been associated with high recurrence rates and poor long-term outcomes, highlighting the critical need for new treatment options”.
Medsafe, the agency responsible for overseeing medical registrations, took this decision following a report that detailed successful clinical trials involving 192 patients.
Paul Smith, Director of Medsafe commented that “Head and neck cancer can devastate the lives of patients by changing their appearance, speech ability to eat normally, breathe and hear. Most cancers are impossible to see; but head and neck cancer patients commonly experience disfigurement from surgery, dental decay from radiation and severe weight loss. These side effects can lead to depression, anxiety and social isolation”.
Keytruda is a monoclonal antibody that increases the ability of the body’s immune system to find and destroy cancer cells. It works by inhibiting the PD-1, PD-L1/L2 pathways and activated T lymphocytes.
New Zealand has a significant amount of head and neck cancers, compared to the total population. Doctors urge the public to quickly seek medical advice from their GP if they notice any of the more common symptoms – lumps in the neck, persistent mouth ulcers, hoarseness or a one-sided sore throat.[/et_p[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]