Merck & Co have been working on a first-line lung cancer treatment. On Monday, October 24, 2016, they announced that their treatment finally received the United States Food and Drug Administration approval, per Fox News.
The treatment, Keytruda, is an immunotherapy treatment designed to treat untreated lung cancer patients and it is the only first-line approved treatment on the market.
Keytruda was approved for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), says Yahoo News. It works on patients that have a high level of proteins which suppress the immune system. Per the Keytruda website, the medication is by prescription only and is specifically designed to treat cancer that has spread, tests positive for PD-L1, and for patients that have not received chemotherapy.
It is not known if the treatment can be used on children under the age of 18 or if it is even effective on younger patients.
The drug was also approved for patients that have had previous chemotherapy and are diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, says Fox News.
Significant Advancements in Cancer Treatment Alternatives
Keytruda is designed to be a chemotherapy alternative for lung cancer patients that do not want the side effects of chemotherapy. The announcement of this approval puts Merck & Co in line as one of the leading innovators in cancer treatments. As the only approved first-line cancer treatment, Merck & Co now has a hold on a high demand market that is rapidly growing, says Fox.
There are some rivals currently working on first-line treatments, including Bristol-Myers, but their drug failed during late-stage trials and is not yet approved by the FDA for use.
The FDA approved the new medication based on late-study studies that showed the first-line treatment offered progression-free superiority and higher survival rates than chemotherapy. The FDA also allows doctors to prescribe the treatment for not yet approved cancer treatments, which means a large volume of patients may start using the medication soon, says Yahoo.
Other Keytruda Successes
Merck’s medicine is also undergoing a bladder cancer trial, according to Reuters. In the trial, the company has seen previously treated patients live longer with the use of their alternative chemotherapy drug.
The drug is designed for patients suffering urothelial cancer, which is the most commonly diagnosed type in the United States. This kind of cancer occurs when cells inside the bladder start to grow rapidly, and carcinoma begins to form in the lining of the bladder. Patients enrolled in this Merck & Co study have advanced forms of bladder cancer even after undergoing chemotherapy in the past.
Keytruda competes against Tecentriq from Roche Holding AG, which is an approved bladder cancer treatment already in the United States. Tecentriq received approval in May 2016.
All the new treatments coming to the market are likely to increase pharmaceutical sales. Reuters states that these treatments will earn tens of billions of dollars in sales, especially as more studies and approvals are issued for these chemo-alternatives.