Published: Wed, April 18, 2018
Health Care | By Belinda Paul

Immune therapy key to extending lung cancer patients' lives

Immune therapy key to extending lung cancer patients' lives

Bristol-Myers's combination therapy significantly stalled disease progression versus standard chemotherapy in newly-diagnosed advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) for patients with a high tumor mutational burden (TMB), a potentially important new biomarker for identifying those most likely to benefit from immunotherapy.

In the video below, Gandhi - who manages the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at New York University Langone Health - explains that the combo treatment has proved "superior in terms of response, keeping people alive without progression of their cancer", as well as "improving the overall survival of patients with metastatic lung cancer" in comparison with chemotherapy alone.

Immunotherapy helps the human body fight off cancer through methods such as boosting the immune system, fighting tumor cells with the use of engineered immune system proteins, and so on.

The magnitude of the survival benefit in the late-stage study was not yet known, but Keytruda plus chemotherapy cut the risk of death by 51 percent compared with chemotherapy alone, according to data presented at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting in Chicago on Monday.

The advantage of Merck's immunotherapy drug is that its' already prescribed in the treatment of NSCLC - the FDA approved the Keytruda-chemotherapy a year ago, notes NBC News. "We are going to have major increases in survival in the next 20 years, which would have been hard to say ten or 15 years ago". This is so far the biggest victory for immunotherapy in its battle against cancer.

Two thirds were given a combination of both immunotherapy drugs and chemotherapy while the remaining patients were given chemotherapy and a placebo.

These findings are still exciting, as they point toward another group of patients with lung cancer who can benefit from checkpoint inhibitors.

The study, which tested treatment effectiveness and side effects, included 616 patients at 118 medical facilities across the world. This is a huge progress that will certainly help lung cancer patients a lot more.

But the median survival among the study participants who received both immunotherapy and chemo has yet to be reached.

Dr. Matthew Hellman of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, who led the study, and others said it was a validation of the TMB biomarker. Then, they underwent the surgery they needed for their type of the disease, lung cancer. These drugs are very, very interesting.

In fact, the results of the studies on the effect of immunotherapy against lung cancer are so significant that all lung cancer patients should be given this option first, according to lung cancer specialist Dr. Roy Herbst from the Yale Cancer Center. "Now, not everybody benefits unfortunately, but some of the people who benefit seem to benefit in a way we've never seen".

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