In the world of cancer treatment, chemotherapy and radiation have historically reigned supreme. Recently, however, researchers have added immunotherapy, which has fewer side effects. One immunotherapy drug, Pembrolizumab, marketed as Keytruda, was approved by the FDA in 2014 for the treatment of a rare form of skin cancer. Since then, researchers have been testing the drug on various other cancers, and recent studies indicate it may prove beneficial in the treatment of both mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Just last month, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine released new research indicating that Keytruda may slow or even reverse the growth of mesothelioma tumors. After traditional chemotherapy was unsuccessful, 25 participants in an initial study received Keytruda as a second line treatment. Twelve of the 25 experienced no tumor growth, and another seven actually reported tumor shrinkage. Only four of the original 25 reported tumor growth. The remaining two were not assessed. Meanwhile, a separate study reported that the drug stopped lung cancer growth in 19 percent of 495 patients.
The drug shows considerable promise and will be tested in a phase II clinical trial for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The study is expected to conclude in March 2018.