Merck has been on a steady rise in the cancer treatment area as its latest drug has received the FDA’s approval as first-line lung cancer treatment and was also recognized as a treatment for a number of different types of cancer.
The latest U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, which came earlier than expected, targets the same drug, Keytruda, that will now be used as a first-line lung cancer treatment.
Keytruda was first approved by the FDA last year when it was used as a second-line treatment. The second line phase includes cancer diagnosed patients who have already undergone a treatment procedure, either with chemotherapy or a mutation-specific drug, but whose disease has resisted treatment, advanced, or has reappeared.
Keytruda, based on pembrolizumab, has now been approved as first-line lung cancer treatment, which means it will be used, as well, on patients that have not gone through another treatment.
It will target non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients whose disease could have also spread through or to other body parts.
The pembrolizumab will have a restricted first-line applicability, as any wishing sufferers will have to take a tumor test before receiving Merck’s Keytruda.The test is meant to indicate the tumor’s levels of the PD-L1 protein, which should be high in order to receive the drug.
Keytruda has been engineered to specifically target the protein, as it is believed to be one of the lung cancer’s most important transmission factors.
The test and the restriction it poses is very important as the new class of checkpoint inhibitors, the immunotherapy drugs, have been proven to be efficient to a specific, smaller number of patients.
As researchers are still studying the immunotherapy drugs, including pembrolizumab, they are still searching the reason why these seem to benefit only some patients, all the while being very careful to offer them only to the sufferers who will benefit from them.
Merck’s Keytruda received the first-line lung cancer treatment approval after their Keynote-024 study registered favorable and encouraging results. The study showed that patients with a PD-L1 protein level of 50 percent or higher who received the pembrolizumab as a first treatment marked a 40 percent lower risk of death and a 50 percent lower possibility of disease progression.
The average lifespan of the Keytruda first-line lung cancer treatment also registered an increase as compared to the classic chemotherapy first phase. Keytruda patients had a 10.3 months average survival period, as opposed to chemo’s 6 months time.
The first line lung cancer treatment approval was also joined by the FDA update of pembrolizumab guideline usage in the case of NSCLC second-line treatment. Patients with low PD-L1 protein levels will now be eligible for the aforementioned drug treatment if the chemotherapy method did not lead to improvements or cures.
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