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Immune therapy key to extending lung cancer patients’ lives


Immune-boosting drugs given in conjunction with chemotherapy significantly extended life for people with the most common type of lung cancer, according to clinical trials.

In the study of 616 patients, pembrolizumab (Merck’s Keytruda) combined with standard chemotherapy halved the risk of death or having the cancer compared to chemo alone after nearly one year.

“The data show that treatment with pembrolizumab and chemotherapy together is more effective than chemotherapy alone,” said lead investigator Leena Gandhi, director of the thoracic medical oncology program at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health.

“Using this combination therapy to treat patients with such an aggressive disease could be an important advance in keeping patients alive and well for longer,” Gandhi added.

The findings, published in the the New England Journal of Medicine, were reported on Monday at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Chicago.

The research could lead to new treatment regimens.

(TommL/Getty Images)

Results of the study are expected to change how 70,000 patients are treated each year in the United States whose lung cancer has already spread by the time it is found, according to AP.

In another study, the combination of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and Yervoy worked better than chemo alone for delaying the time until cancer worsened in advanced lung cancer patients whose tumors have many gene flaws, as nearly half do, AP reported.

But the benefits for Opdivo and Yervoy lasted less than two months on average. More research is needed to know if the combo improves overall survival, as Keytruda did.

The immune therapy treatments worked for only about half of the patients in the study. But that is advance in this cancer.