HealthDay News — Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) may extend survival for patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to a study published online Dec. 19 in The Lancet. The research was also presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology, held from Dec. 18 to 21 in Singapore.

Roy Herbst, MD, professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, and colleagues compared pembrolizumab to docetaxel in 1,034 patients with NSCLC. All of the patients had tumors that had progressed after chemotherapy and produced the protein PD-L1.

Among patients with the highest amounts of PD-L1, those who received pembrolizumab lived twice as long as those who received docetaxel alone — 14.9 vs. 8.2 months, Herbst’s team found. Patients with low levels of PD-L1 also benefited from pembrolizumab. Treatment-linked side effects were less in patients given pembrolizumab versus those who took docetaxel, the researchers found.

“I believe we should treat patients with the best available drugs as soon as possible. Now that we have learned which patients are most likely to benefit from the anti-PD-L1 strategy, we could begin moving this drug to the earlier setting stages,” Herbst said in a Yale news release. “In this direction, I am eager to see the results of ongoing studies testing pembrolizumab in the first-line setting and as an adjuvant after surgery to hopefully reduce high rates of lung cancer recurrence.”

The study was funded by Merck & Co, the manufacturer of pembrolizumab.

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