New drug for advanced melanoma patients approved by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the drug Keytruda for patients who have advanced, inoperable melanoma. Last month, patients who experienced their cancer worsening after regular treatment were granted special clearance for the drug, which may be a beacon of hope for other patients in the same boat.

What is Keytruda? It’s a drug that performed remarkably in early clinical trials, and is administered by infusing it into the patient’s bloodstream from a drip. It is now said to be part of a new class of immunotherapies that function by blocking a pathway in the immune system known as PD-1.

PD-1 stops cells from the immune system from accessing and battling the tumor – so by blocking it, Keytruda is able to give the immune system the access it requires to stop the cancer. To date, this is the first FDA-approved drug that is able to block this pathway, but other drugs for treating bladder, lung and kidney cancers similarly are also in the works.

It isn’t known as yet how long patients will need to be on the drug, but if they respond well, some patients may be able to take it indefinitely – but it isn’t cheap. Keytruda is estimated to cost about $12,500 a month, but at least the use of this drug now brings up the number of FDA-approved melanoma treatments available up to six.

Source: Tampa Bay Times

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