Immunotherapy medications for cancer treatment have been a game changer for the oncology field – and none moreso than Keytruda (pembrolizumab). Keytruda initially gained FDA approval in 2014 for melanoma, with the cancer approvals expanded over the years to include advanced and metastatic cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer, head/neck cancers, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stomach cancer, liver cancer, and kidney cancer.
Even though we are five years out from Keytruda’s first FDA approval, experts continue to be excited and engaged in new research and applications for this versatile medication. In fact, Keytruda garnered a lot of discussion time at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, where 32,000 oncology professionals gathered from around the world.
Key takeaways from this meeting included:
- Patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer live longer when treated with Keytruda. In fact, newly completed clinical trials show that Keytruda can be used as either first-line or second (after chemotherapy) treatment and patients live 3-4 times longer than otherwise expected.
- Patients with advanced stomach and gastroesophageal junction cancers can be effectively treated with Keytruda. Clinical trials that were recently wrapped up demonstrated that this can be a first-line treatment, even as effective as chemotherapy. Swapping chemotherapy for Keytruda greatly reduces side effects experienced by patients.
There is no doubt that these immunotherapy advances translate into more lives saved. Now it’s also clear that Keytruda (for many patients) can be the first treatment started and this means better outcomes with fewer side effects.