FDA approves a new drug to treat lung cancer

FDA approves a new drug to treat lung cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. It accounts for about 13 percent of all new cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, the lung cancer statistics for 2015 in the United States are 221,200 new cases of lung cancer (115,610 in men and 105,590 in women), and an estimated 158,040 deaths from lung cancer (86,380 in men and 71,660 among women).

A breakthrough may be on the way, as the FDA approves a new drug to treat lung cancer. The drug is called Keytruda, and it could change the way that lung cancer is treated.

The largest study to date including UCLA and 29 other sites worldwide tested the drug with 500 lung cancer patients. Because so many of the participants in the study showed long-term benefits, the FDA approved the drug as a “breakthrough therapy” for lung cancer.

The approval of this drug and a test to identify patients most likely to benefit has the potential to transform the way that lung cancer is treated,” said Dr. Edward Garon, the study’s principal investigator and a researcher at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The quality and duration of disease response that was seen in the trial had previously been extremely rare in lung cancer. For people battling this deadly disease, this approach provides real hope of long-lasting responses while avoiding the toxicities of typical chemotherapy.”

According to the study press release from UCLA:

The response rate and duration of response for Keytruda were much greater than for drugs traditionally used to treat lung cancer. In the three-year clinical trial, the overall response rate (the percentage of people in whom tumors were substantially reduced in size) was 19 percent. In people who responded to treatment, the average duration of response exceeded one year, a remarkable advance in this difficult disease.”

Judith Gasson, director of the Jonsson Cancer Center and senior associate dean for research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA notes that researchers have been working for a long time to create an immunotherapy treatment that is long lasting and effective.

We have long believed that harnessing the power of our own immune systems would dramatically alter cancer treatment,” she said. “Based upon the pioneering work conducted at UCLA, we are beginning to see the clinical benefits of this research in the most challenging cancers.”

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1. “FDA Approves Game-changing Immunotherapy Drug to Fight Lung Cancer.” UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. UCLA, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2015.
2. “What Are the Key Statistics about Lung Cancer?American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2015.

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