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New Breakthrough in Cancer Treatment

According to recent report on CBS, former president Jimmy Carter has announced that he is now cancer free.  Last year in August, he had an aggressive form of melanoma skin cancer, and that tumors had spread into his liver and brain.  He received surgery, radiation, and multiple doses of Keytruda.  And now, he said that all sign of cancer were gone. So, what is this Keytruda that has “cured” president Carter’s cancer?

Keytruda or pembrolizumab is a medicine that may treat melanoma or lung cancer by working with your immune system.  It is a humanized antibody used in cancer immunotherapy.  It targets the programmed cell death1 (PD-1) receptor which can be found in many different types of cancer.  This receptor is responsible for inhibiting the immune response to cancer cells which express programmed death-ligand (PD-L1 or PD-L2). Normally, this effect is necessary to avoid inappropriate overreaction, such as an auto-immune disease, in healthy individuals.  In cancer patients, antibody blockade against this receptor such as with Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) reinvigorates the immune system, allowing it to target and destroy cancer cells.

Keytruda is used to treat advance metastatic melanoma, a late stage skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body or cannot be removed surgically.  The drug is also used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that express PD-L1 or PD-L2.

Keytruda is injected into a vein through an IV.  A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this injection.  This medicine is usually given once every 3 weeks and normally will take approximately 30 minutes in each session.

The cost of Keytruda is about $150,000 per year.  Financial Assistant is available through Merck Patient Assistance Program.

 

References:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-a-new-therapy-kicked-carters-cancer/

https://www.drugs.com/keytruda.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/pembrolizumab-intravenous-route/description/drg-20122552