This key Merck cancer drug just got a huge boost

This key Merck cancer drug just got a huge boost


Keytruda bested standard chemotherapy in an advanced lung cancer trial.

A pioneering Merck, cancer drug could soon become a go-to treatment option for advanced lung cancer after besting standard chemotherapy in a clinical trial.

The drug in question is the immunotherapy Keytruda, famous for being used to treat President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma.


It was being tested in patients with a specific type of lung cancer called advanced non-small cell lung cancer, who also had high levels of a biological marker called PD-L1.

Keytruda met its main goals in the clinical trial, according to Merck, improving previously untreated patients, overall survival rates and preventing their disease from worsening.

Merck’s drug proved sufficiently superior to chemotherapy as a first-response treatment that an independent committee overseeing the study recommended it be halted and that all the participants be given the opportunity to receive Keytruda.

Both Keytruda and Opdivo are cleared to treat a number of cancers, including melanoma and lung cancer, and are being tested in dozens of other cancers.


But Keytruda can only be used as a secondary treatment in NSCLC after chemotherapy has already failed, as well as in some patients who haven’t responded to other types of treatment.

A first-line approval could go a long way toward helping Merck play catch-up to Bristol-Myers — or so the company hopes.

Its rival is presenting its own first-response treatment data, and if they’re good enough, Merck’s boost could be short-lived.


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