I recently noticed a Politician who was diagnosed with Cancer gaining a well-conditioned glow and in fact more energetic after she was announced to have been trying a new cancer treatment drug in the country. This is a well-received news since the treatment was specifically done here, curiosity led me to what seem to be the new treatment might be.
Burden of Disease
Cancer is one of the most challenging diseases and annual cases are expected to rise to 22 million within the next two decades. In 2012 alone, there were 14 million new cases reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) with 8.2 million cancer-related deaths. A significant contributor to this statistic is lung cancer, which is the top cause of cancer mortality for both sexes worldwide.
Sadly, incidence from the Philippines is not far off from the global data. According to Globocan 2012
A new hope has been found for many cancers and there have been significant breakthroughs – from prevention to treatment options – however, the unmet needs remain high.
MSD, a leader in oncology research and development just introduced immunotherapy, one of the most innovative cancer treatment methods to date.
One type of immunotherapy called immune checkpoint inhibitors is a form of cancer treatment that prevents the interaction between the immune system’s T-cells and the tumors. When tumors and T-cells interact, a protein found in the tumor called the Programmed Death-Ligand 1 (PD-L1) deactivates T-cells so they become incapable of recognizing and destroying cancer cells. Through immunotherapy, this interaction is blocked so that T-cells can detect and ward off the cancer cells.
In the Philippines, the anti PD-L1 immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of advanced or metastatic lung cancer and melanoma after failing first-line treatment.
According to Dr Gerardo Cornelio, Cancer Institute Head of St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City , the new drug has the potential to become an integral part of cancer treatment. It has and will be tested across a broad spectrum of cancers."
Durable responses, lower toxicities
Clinical trials have shown immunotherapy’s efficacy in the treatment of advanced lung cancer and melanoma. According to a study published in LANCET, the drug showed superior overall survival with less high-grade toxicity for previously treated, PD-L1-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Results of the trials showed that the most common side effects for lung cancer patients receiving the drug were decreased appetite, fatigue, nausea, and rash.
Clinical trials also showed that Pembrolizumab has superior anticancer activity in patients with advanced melanoma who failed previous therapies. In terms of safety profile, the drug showed a lower incidence of treatment-related adverse events compared to chemotherapy. . Biomarkers play a key role in patient response.
Administration of the drug
Clinical trials are done on an Out-patient basis with duration of 30 mins./ session intravenously over a window of 3 weeks. Among those who has tested the drug, no side effects of weakness, hair loss and the likes such as those found in chemotherapy were experienced.
Hope within reach
With this new immunotherapy drug finally made available in the Philippines, cancer patients diagnosed with advanced or metastatic lung cancer or melanomas are given a sigh of hope and confidence in what used to be a hopeless case.