Lung Cancer Trial Stopped After Jimmy Carter Drug Shrinks Tumors

According to NBC News, researchers have stopped a study of a new lung cancer drug, saying it’s so effective they want to offer it to all the patients in the trial.

The drug, Keytruda, is the same drug that former president Jimmy Carter says helped stall advanced melanoma that had spread to his brain. Keytruda was being tested for the first time in 305 lung cancer patients who had not been treated at all yet. The researchers wanted to see how it worked against the standard chemotherapy cocktails. It worked at least as well if not better than the chemo, so the researchers have stopped the study to give everyone a chance to take Keytruda, Merck, the company that makes the drug, said. It helped patients live longer overall and helped them live longer without their tumors growing or spreading, Merck said.

Cancer research goes forward in slow steps. In tests of new drugs, patients always get either the very best therapy already available, or the new drug. Often they get both. Usually, cancer drugs are only tested at first in patients who have tried everything else available and their cancer has come back, anyway.

According to the article, the company now can ask the Food and Drug Administration if it will approve Keytruda to use as the first treatment a lung cancer patient tries. The FDA has given speedy approval to several new drugs in a class called checkpoint inhibitors, including Keytruda. They work on the principle that it’s not where cancer starts that matters, but the genetic mutation that causes the cancer. So a lung tumor in one patient may look like the melanoma in another. The new drugs are less toxic and more precise than standard chemotherapy. But they are not free of side-effects. Some are severe and can damage the lung, colon, liver, kidneys, hormone-producing glands and the brain, the FDA says.

Lung cancer is the top cancer killer in the U.S. It’s diagnosed in more than 220,000 people a year and it killed nearly 160,000 people last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Asbestos exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you, a family member or a friend were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help. We have been assisting our clients with their asbestos cases since 1975. Please contact our office at 1-800-995-6991, for a free consultation.