Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Promising Hope For Lung Cancer Patients

Promising Hope For Lung Cancer Patients

Patients with newly diagnosed advanced lung cancer who received an immunotherapy drug plus standard chemotherapy lived significantly longer than those who got chemo alone, according to a new study that is expected to change the way such patients are treated.

The series of studies was yesterday presented at the American Association of Cancer Research in Chicago.

That's a big difference for such an advanced cancer, said Dr. Alice Shaw, a Massachusetts General Hospital lung cancer expert and one of the conference leaders. They remove a cloak that some cancer cells have that hides them from the immune system. It's called immunotherapy. Doctors have been using Keytruda and Opdivo for several years treating lung cancer. “Instead of chemo being the backbone on which to improve, immunotherapy is now the backbone on which we build.”. It's the principal form of lung cancer and found most commonly in people who have smoked. The American Cancer Society estimates that 234,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and 154,050 will die of it. Many times, they give it after chemotherapy has failed.

The new studies suggest that different types of tumors should receive different treatment regimens, all including immune therapy, Hellmann said.

The drug called Keytruda, or pembrolizumab, is already prescribed to a group of patients who have a type of malignancy called non-small cell lung cancer. The patients did not have cancer-causing mutations.

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Doctors already prescribe Keytruda to patients if a blood test shows that they are likely to respond to this drug. The combination treatment is a significant improvement, she said. He was not involved in the pembrolizumab study. H. Jack West, an oncologist at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, said, “It is literally practice-changing - immediately.”.

"We're not almost where we need to be yet", said Dr. Roy Herbst, a Yale Cancer Center lung expert who had no role in the studies. "We have patients on these immunotherapies are alive more than eight years".

Last May, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Keytruda-chemo combination based on an early-stage trial.

Most patients stay on the drugs for two years, he said.

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Other studies in lung cancer have involved another checkpoint inhibitor, nivolumab, or Opdivo (made by Bristol-Myers Squibb), which works in a similar way to pembrolizumab. However, as in the latest study, the effects frequently don't persist for most patients.

He said the results established the double-immunotherapy combination as a first-line treatment for patients with a high “tumor mutational burden, ” but that it was too early to know whether the treatment leads to longer survival. "This is really a pivotal study. a new standard of care", said Shaw, who has no ties to the drugmakers.

The findings represent another step forward for immunotherapy, which has been making steady gains against a number of different cancers.

Gandhi said chemotherapy alone had only a "modest benefit", and could add only a few months of life, with most patients surviving about a year or less. Roughly 20% of patients see their tumors respond when they get chemotherapy before surgery; in this study, among patients who received Opdivo instead, 45% of tumors had regressed and in three patients there was no remaining tumor at all, Forde said.

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