Immunotherapy extends lung cancer patients’ survival period for the first time. A treatment that combines an immunotherapy drug with chemotherapy and boosts the immune system improved the survival time of some lung cancer patients.
The new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday showed the treatment combo doubled the survival in people newly diagnosed with the lung cancer compared to patients treated with chemotherapy alone.
The study, a phase III clinical trial testing treatment effectiveness, and side effects were followed 616 patients at 118 medical facilities around the globe.
First larger group of 400 patients were given standard chemotherapy and the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab, while the other group of patients was treated with chemotherapy.
Pembrolizumab is a drug which is approved by Food and Drug Administration and sold the brand name Keytruda by a subsidiary of Merck & Company, Inc. which sponsored this study.
As a result, the researchers found that the chance of death or progression of cancer was reduced by 48% among patients, who received combined therapy, compared to the patients who received only chemotherapy.
“The combined use of standard chemotherapy with pembrolizumab was superior in terms of response — keeping people alive without progression of their cancer — and improving the overall survival of patients with metastatic lung cancer compared to chemotherapy alone,” said Dr. Leena Gandhi, lead investigator of the study and director of the thoracic medical oncology program at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health. “And the differences were not small,” she added.