People diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure may find hope with Merck’s new immunotherapy drug, Keytruda.
Keytruda was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients with advanced melanoma. Merck recently announced it is seeking to expand Keytruda’s approval to include lung cancer.
Data presented at the recent American Association for Cancer Research conference in Philadelphia demonstrated Keytruda’s success in treating lung cancer. In a study involving non-small cell lung cancer—which accounts for 85 percent of all lung cancer— 19 percent of the 495 patients saw substantial tumor reduction, according to Philly.com. The results were even better for patients with tumors containing the PD-L1 protein. 50 percent of the 313 patients with PD-L1 experienced a reduction in their tumors.
“These results have the potential to substantially change the way lung cancer is treated,” said study leader and University of California oncologist Edward Garon.
A separate Merck study found that Keytruda was even more effective in treating mesothelioma. Keytruda shrank or halted tumor growth for six months in 76 percent of patients, Philly.com reported.
“We’re glad that Merck recognized that rare tumors also need to be evaluated,” said University of Pennsylvania oncologist Evan Alley, who led the study. Alley says mesothelioma is low on the priority list because only a small number of people are affected.
More than 158,000 Americans die of lung cancer annually, compared to 3,000 people diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Mesothelioma is much more aggressive. Most people will die within a year of the diagnosis, which leaves little time for treatment.
Hard working men and women, including 9/11 first responders have been suffered the deadly effects of asbestos and mesothelioma. These brave people and theirfamilies deserve a cure.