It is expected that the U.K will also adopt the drug, maybe even as the default treatment for lung cancer. Currently, this is the third most common form of the disease, with more than 20.000 new British cases each year.
Keytruda, or pembrolizumab, is part of a new wave of immunotherapy drugs hoped to spearhead the fight against cancer. This recent type of medicine works by boosting the body’s own immune system in order to help it fight the mutated cells. Even though it has already shown great promise, this approach is effective only on some patients that have a specific variant of lung cancer.
The trial that sparked this decision was conducted on 616 patients with advanced lung cancer. They were treated with Keytruda alongside chemotherapy. Researchers found that patients treated with both procedures were 51 percent more likely to survive the initial two year period, compared to those treated only with chemo. There were also significant differences in tumor shrinkage, only 19 percent of those treated with chemotherapy saw a reduction by 20%, as opposed to the 48% among those having the combined treatment.
Immunotherapy, or biological therapy, is already hailed as the new step in cancer treatment and is expected to become the new standard. It offers so many advantages – it’s more targetable, safer and less taxing on the patient’s body, that it’s only a matter of time.
As with most cancer drugs, there are some important adverse effects to be considered, including lung, intestinal or liver problems, skin rashes and even kidney failure.
Find out more about Keytruda here