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MSD makes headway in treating lung cancer that impacts economy
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 16 - 10 - 2016

The cost of lost productivity and toll in the economic growth as a whole, of premature cancer-related mortality will be greatly minimized, with MSD – the global healthcare leader providing innovative medicines, vaccines, therapies, health products and solutions – revealing a new clinical data showing its Keytruda immunotherapy offered big benefits in previously untreated lung cancer patients, either when given on its own or with chemotherapy.
Most measures of the cancer burden take a public health perspective. Cancer also has a significant economic impact on society.
At an international event held in Copenhagen, experts from MSD, known as Merck in the US and Canada, disclosed that Keytruda halved the risk of disease progression and cut overall deaths by 40 percent compared to chemotherapy alone in pre-selected patients whose tumors had been tested using a biomarker. And when given with two older chemotherapy drugs in non-selected patients, it was almost twice as likely to shrink tumors as chemotherapy alone.
"Chemotherapy has been the standard treatment for most patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer for decades, but survival rates remain low," said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. "Our new data suggest that Keytruda treatment can offer meaningful improvement over chemotherapy in a broad array of patients. In this sense, these studies may represent a turning point in worldwide efforts to control lung cancer. We sincerely thank the patients and the clinical investigators for their participation in our studies. Together we are working to improve the health of more and more patients with cancer."
The findings published in The New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that Keytruda reduced the risk of progression or death by 50 percent compared to chemotherapy
Additionally, Keytruda resulted in a 40 percent reduction in the risk of death compared with chemotherapy. This finding includes the 66 patients (43.7%) on the chemotherapy arm who crossed over in-study to receive Keytruda once their cancer had progressed.
"These data ... demonstrate the potential of Keytruda to change the way non-small cell lung cancer is currently treated," said Dr. Martin Reck, head of the thoracic oncology dept., LungenClinic Grosshansdorf, Germany, and lead author of The New England Journal of Medicine paper.
The safety of Keytruda was consistent with what has been seen in previous trials among patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The most common treatment-related adverse events for Keytruda were diarrhea, fatigue, and pyrexia.
Moreover, Roger Dansey, M.D., senior vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology late-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories, said "our research in immuno-oncology continues to show tremendous promise, with our goal being to extend the lives of significant numbers of patients with non-small cell lung cancer."
Merck has a robust clinical development program for Keytruda in lung cancer, with multiple registration-enabling studies currently underway. The Keytruda clinical development program includes more than 30 tumor types in more than 350 clinical trials, including more than 100 trials that combine Keytruda with other cancer treatments.
MSD's goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At MSD Oncology, "helping people fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer."
"As part of our focus on cancer, MSD is committed to exploring the potential of immuno-oncology with one of the fastest-growing development programs in the industry. We are currently executing an expansive research program that includes more than 350 clinical trials evaluating our anti-PD-1 therapy across more than 30 tumor types. We also continue to strengthen our immuno-oncology portfolio through strategic acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising immunotherapeutic candidates with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers," MSD said in a statement.

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