The most common kind of cancer in human beings is lung cancer which is also responsible for the greatest number of deaths in the human population. According to the estimates by the American Cancer Society, around 224,390 cases of lung cancer are expected this year in the U.S. while the number of people that will die because of lung cancer is expected to be 158,080. However, a new study has some hope for such patients.
According to a new research, on average, people that took Keytruda, Merck’s immune-boosting drug as the first treatment for their lung cancer lived longer than those that received chemotherapy. If the results from this study are deemed reliable for a larger number of patients then it can very well change the lung cancer treatments commonly given to patients. The current results hold promise that in the near future lung cancer may be treated by harnessing the power of the immune system of the patient.
For the purpose of the current Merck study, Keytruda was tested in those patients that had a non-small cell lung cancer which had advanced towards the other body parts and had not been treated yet. For years, the standard first approach for such patients had been chemotherapy which can take a physical as well as a mental toll on a person. Also patients that went through chemotherapy usually lived up to 14 months after their treatment had started reports lung cancer specialist, Hossein Borghaei from Philadelphia. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The current research showed that almost 80% of patients that took Keytruda stayed alive for six months after the treatment started as compared to the 72% of those that opted for chemotherapy. Keytruda was able to extend the time of death or slow down the progression of the disease to an average of 10.3 months from the period when treatment was started while chemotherapy was only able to extend it for six months.
A total of 45% of the patients that were using Keytruda experienced a significant amount of tumor shrinkage while the percentage of chemotherapy patients that experienced such a change was only 28%.
Side effects because of the treatment, such as anemia and nausea, took place in 73% of the participants that took Keytruda while the side effects due to chemotherapy were seen in 90% of the patients. Side effects among the patients who took chemotherapy were not only severe but also took place at a greater rate.
A total of 305 lung cancer patients participated in the study. They also had a high level of PD-L1 in the tumors that they were suffering from. PD-L1 is thought to enhance the effects of Keytruda and other similar drugs. The current study started back in September of 2014 and came to a close in June of 2016. The current study was closed early due to the recommendation from an independent monitory committee and the results showing that Keytruda was indeed better than chemotherapy. All of the participants that were going through chemotherapy were allowed to start using Keytruda instead.
More research is required in order to fully understand the biochemical relationship between taking such drugs and fighting lung cancer. However, results from the current Merck research do show that effective cancer treatments can still be created to allow patients live a better life.