A recent study by pharmaceutical company Merck’s Keytruda division published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that when doctors implement immunotherapy in concert with standard chemotherapy treatments, the rates of survival for lung cancer patients greatly increase. The study is particularly good news for mesothelioma and other lung cancer patients whose prognoses are often significantly worse since symptoms do not present themselves until the cancer has metastasized and spread to other vital organs.
Also known as pembrolizumab, Keytruda has already been prescribed for some time now to patients who have a type of malignant cancer called non-small cell lung cancer, the principal form of lung cancer and found most commonly in people who smoked cigarettes. Merck decided to expand the study of Keytruda by prescribing the drug to other lung cancer patients who were not obvious candidates for the benefits expected from the drug.
The results of the study show that when immunotherapy is introduced, the rates for death or having the cancer worsen are cut almost in half, an incredible feat that could help more than 70,000 lung cancer patients in the United States. Other studies that included immunotherapy drugs Opdivo and Yervoy, developed by pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, have come out showing the benefits of immunotherapy for advanced lung cancer patients. Opdivo and Yervoy were found to be especially effective in patients with cancers that have gene flaws the drugs can exploit to help the immune system attack.