The US Food and Drug Administration, (FDA) has approved a drug combination for initial treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer. This follows the FDA’s priority review of the results of a Phase 3 trial of combination of Merck Research Laboratories drug Keytruda with Pfizer’s Inlyta.
Keytruda is an immune checkpoint inhibitor designed to help the body’s immune system recognise and fight cancer. Inlyta is an inhibitor which prevents the growth of new blood vessels into an expanding tumour, effectively starving it of oxygen and nutrients, thereby inhibiting its growth.
“Given the aggressive nature of the disease, many patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma need additional treatment options that can help improve survival outcomes,” said Professor Brian Rini, medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Centre.
The two drugs in combination offer an important new therapeutic option for initial treatment for patients newly diagnosed with advanced renal cell carcinoma.The combo must now be approved for use in UK and EU by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, (MHRA), and the European Medicine’s Agency, (EMA).
Immunotherapy drug treatments help the body’s immune system to fight cancer either directly, and generally stimulate the immune system in a non-specific way to help kill cancer cells. These are early days for immunotherapy. It is presently expensive and consequently is not widely used as yet as invasive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However clinical trials of immunotherapies treating a variety of different cancers like the newly approved kidney cancer therapy, are now underway in hospitals across the globe.
There are still some cancers, like pancreatic and colorectal cancers, that fail to respond well to approved immunotherapies. This is largely because of highly immunosuppressive environments that curb the body’s immune defences. Finding new ways to improve immune cell function and tumour-killing ability is critical to obtaining better outcomes for these patients.
Immunotherapy will eventually take its place alongside the current mainstream treatments as it evolves to become a frontline cancer treatment. However, it is noteworthy that at least one third of cancers could be prevented by changes in lifestyle. For cancer, prevention is always preferable to treatment and it is also definitely cheaper!
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