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New Drug Beating Out Chemo For Some Lung Cancer Patients: Study

Patients diagnosed with lung cancer may soon find a non-chemotherapy related drug available to help them combat the disease. An immunotherapy medication called Pembrolizumab is showing strong results in trials for use as a first-line treatment. Those results are so positive, in fact, they beat out the current first-line treatment of platinum-based doublet chemotherapy.

The immunotherapy drug is designed to encourage the body to fight off cancerous cells on its own. In doing so, it reduces the side-effect risk associated with chemotherapy. A recent study into its potential benefits tested its viability on patients with non-small cell lung cancer. The findings were quite promising, researchers say.

The study in question involved more than 300 patients with non-small cell lung cancer who had not received any form of treatment as of yet. In patients who were given Pembrolizumab alone, the progression-free survival rate was higher. The overall survival was also higher. Most notable, perhaps, was the finding that the reduction of risk for death was 40 percent better. Toxicity was also noticeably lower, researchers noted.

Just how soon Pembrolizumab might be available for use as a first-line treatment remains unclear. It is currently approved for use as a second-line treatment. Researchers are hopeful the new data will lead to faster approval of this medication for use instead of chemo in treating some patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer strikes an estimated 224,000 Americas each year. About 158,000 die from the disease annually. People who are at high risk for the disease, such as smokers, are urged to talk to their doctors about lung cancer. This disease, if caught early, can be successfully treated. The precise treatment recommendation, however, will hinge on particulars related to each unique case. Pembrolizumab is not yet approved as a first-line treatment, but it may be in the near future.

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