Immunotherapy Keytruda prolonged survival in lung-cancer patients

16 Jun 2016

Advanced lung cancer patients who took Merck’s Keytruda immuno-oncology medicine in a large trial and were previously untreated went longer without their disease worsening and showed a survival advantage over those given standard chemotherapy, the drugmaker reported.

The study stopped earlier due to favorable outcomes

An independent data monitoring board recommended that the late-stage trial be stopped due to the favorable results, Merck said, thereby allowing patients who were taking chemotherapy to switch over to the company's treatment.

Keytruda, which takes the brakes off the immune system by blocking a protein called PD-1, is already approved for patients who have undergone previous chemotherapy for advanced non-small lung cancer.

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Levels of PD-L1: the key to future NSCLC treatment

Patients enrolled in the trial had tumors with high levels of PD-L1, a related protein whose presence may help identify which patients are most likely to respond to Keytruda and similar drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. Merck hopes the new data will allow its injectable drug to be used earlier as a treatment for the most common form of lung cancer.

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s approved rival Opdivo is also being tested as a so-called first line treatment for NSCLC, with data expected later this year. Opdivo's studies have enrolled patients regardless of their PD-L1 levels, helping assure its wider use and greater sales than Keytruda.

Source: Reuters
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