• Keytruda May Bring Hope for Mesothelioma Patients
  • January 5, 2016
  • Law Firm: Waters Kraus LLP - Dallas Office
  • Mesothelioma patients may benefit from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent approval of Keytruda (pembrolizumab), manufactured by Merck. Keytruda is an immunotherapy drug designed to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

    Keytruda works by obstructing a cellular pathway that allows cancer cells to spread. Called PD-1/PD-L1, the pathway consists of proteins existing in some cancer cells and on the body’s immune cells. By shutting down this pathway, Keytruda may empower the body’s immune system to tackle cancer cells on its own.

    Keytruda has already been approved for use in advanced melanoma patients. Opdivo (nivolumab), another drug that blocks the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway, received FDA approval for treating squamous non-small cell lung cancer (a type of NSCLC) earlier this year.

    Follow Up Clinical Trial Now Underway for Immunotherapy Drug Keytruda in Mesothelioma Patients

    Mesothelioma is a rare cancer with one established cause — asbestos exposure. In 20 to 40 percent of mesothelioma tumors, a protein exists that is similar to the PD-1/PD-L1 protein found in NSCLC tumors. If Keytruda works for NSCLC, that success could open the door for the development of similar treatments for mesothelioma patients.

    Keytruda is promising enough that the FDA has given it accelerated approval and granted its use with a companion diagnostic test that can detect PD-L1 expression in NSCLC. If PD-L1 expression is also found in mesothelioma patients, Keytruda may benefit them as well.

    Keytruda has had many positive results in its early clinical trials. For mesothelioma patients, three out of four were helped by the drug. Tumors stopped growing in nearly half the patients and one in four mesothelioma tumors shrank 30 percent or more. A follow up clinical trial for Keytruda and mesothelioma patients is now underway.