Pembrolizumab for cancer treatment could be the new wonder drug for melanoma patients

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The former US president, Jimmy Carter, who was diagnosed with melanoma in the brain, has been on the road of recovery. He was treated with a new cancer-fighting drug called Pembrolizumab. This drug has been touted as one of the most promising new drugs for the management of cancer.

Melanoma is the commonest form of skin cancer that affect the pigment-making cells called melanocytes in the skin. It usually spreads on the surface of the skin. In rare cases, it may grow deeper into the tissues inside the body, such as inside the eye or the brain.

Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called melanoma inside his brain tissue in August 2015. Multiple spots of melanoma were detected in his brain after an operation was performed to remove a tumor mass from his liver. The latest diagnostic tests have revealed that the spots have disappeared.

This has raised the hopes of the medical research community about finding a possible cure for most types of cancers. More research and clinical findings are needed to support the effectiveness of Pembrolizumab for cancer treatment. Currently, this drug is sold in the United States under the brand name Keytruda. It is one of the first immunotherapy drugs.

The immunotherapy drugs aim at destroying the abnormal cancer cells by modifying the immune response of the patients to those cells. Immunotherapy is considered a safer treatment option than chemotherapy and radiation therapy as it does not have significant adverse effect on the normal cells of the body. Immunotherapy drugs cause the destruction of the cancerous cells without affecting the normal cells.

Pembrolizumab for cancer treatment works by binding to certain receptors present on the surface of T cells (a type of immune cells) in the blood, which results in the activation of the immune responses of the body against the tumor cells.

Instead of directly killing the cancer cells, Pembrolizumab boosts the functions of the immune system to allow it to work more efficiently at destroying the abnormal cells. Though the concept of immunotherapy has been around since a few decades, it is only in the recent years that the doctors and scientists have begun to put this theory into practice with a few remarkably successful drugs like Pembrolizumab.

Keytruda was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the management of melanoma about a year ago. The clinical trials showed that this drug was more effective and caused much fewer side effects than the other commonly used immunotherapy drug, Ipilimumab. The survival rate of melanoma patients treated with Pembrolizumab after 12 months was 74%.

These statistics have been quite encouraging. However, it may take more research and clinical trials before cancer specialists can start using Pembrolizumab for cancer treatment for the patients with Melanoma.

References:

  1. New immunotherapy drug behind Jimmy Carter’s cancer cure
  2. Melanoma
  3. Pembrolizumab

 

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