According the new study,an immune therapy drug called Keytruda may be can extend patient’s life. Keytruda is commonly used to treat other tumor types, and made headlines recently after it helped former President Jimmy Carter fight off brain cancer.
Researchers compared Keytruda to the chemotherapy drug docetaxel in more than 1,000 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. All of the patients were battling tumors that had progressed even after chemotherapy.
All of the patients’ tumors produced a protein called PD-L1, which can shield the tumor from immune system attack, according to a team led by Dr. Roy Herbst, professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine.
Among patients with the highest amounts of PD-L1, those who received Keytruda lived twice as long as those who received docetaxel alone — 14.9 months vs. 8.2 months, Herbst’s team found. Patients with low levels of PD-L1 also benefited from Keytruda.
Treatment-linked side effects were less in patients given Keytruda versus those who took docetaxel, the study found. The findings suggest that the drug might be offered earlier to patients with a particular lung tumor profile.