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Merck Drug, Keytruda With Chemotherapy Could Treat The Deadliest Lung Cancer, Study Reveals

First Posted: Oct 10, 2016 04:50 AM EDT
Terminal Cancer Patient Advocates For Death With Dignity Law In NY
Youssef Cohen, 68, takes prescription medication while undergoing cancer treatment on March 17, 2016 in New York City. He is currently taking immunotherapy infusions of the drug Keytruda in a final effort to fight the disease.
(Photo : John Moore/Staff/Getty Images)

A study shows that patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer and who took the Merck drug, Keytruda lived longer on average compared to those who received chemotherapy alone. This indicates the world's biggest cancer killer could be treated with the Merck drug.

The study was printed in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is written there that Keytruda could become a "new standard of care." Stephan Zimmermann of Lausanne's University Hospital said that you have to remember this day as it's a new day for lung cancer treatment, according to Reuters.

In the study, the researchers examined the Keytruda in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. This type of lung cancer spread to other parts of the body and have not been treated. Patients with this type of disease received chemotherapy.

The results showed that about 80 percent who took the Merck drug were alive six months after the start of treatment. On the other hand, 72 percent of those on chemotherapy. This means that the Merck drug, Keytruda, prolonged the time until death or disease progression to a median of 10.3 months from the start of treatment. This also suggests that this exceeds the progression-free survival, according to Wall Street Journal.

The research also indicates that Merck's combination lessened the risk of disease progression or death by 47 percent compared to chemotherapy alone after 10.6 months. About 45 percent of patients also saw their tumors became smaller versus 28 percent of chemotherapy alone.

Bruce E. Johnson, a lung cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston said that the Keytruda study results may establish a new standard care for first-line treatment of lung cancer patients whose tumors have high levels of PD-L1. The U.S. regulators are expected to approve the Merck drug, Keytruda, as a treatment for the first-line non-small cell lung cancer by December 24.

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