Former President Jimmy Carter announced that recent brain scans found no evidence of cancer. After being diagnosed with melanoma, a very serious type of cancer affecting his liver and brain, he credited Keytruda, a new cancer drug, for shrinking his brain tumors entirely.
Keytruda or Pembrolizumab is a new immunotherapy drug by pharmaceutical giant Merck. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it as a new treatment drug for patients suffering from melanoma and lung cancer.
“My most recent MRI brain scan did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones. I will continue to receive regular 3-week immunotherapy treatments of pembrolizumab,” former President Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States and a Nobel Prize winner in 2002 said.
Carter, 91 years old, announced the news of his recovery during a service of a Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Georgia. In August, he revealed that he was diagnosed with melanoma as doctors spotted four tumors in his brain and a large one in his liver.
Health experts, however, say it is not clear if the drug itself shrank the tumors in his brain. Apparently, Carter underwent radiation therapy for his brain tumors and had the large tumor in his liver surgically removed.
The drug targets the activity of genes called PD-1 and PD-L1. When these cells interact, they let some tumor cells become invisible to the immune system preventing their destruction. Dubbed as a monoclonal antibody or PD-1 inhibitor, it alters this invisibility effect tumors use to evade attack by immune cells.
In a recent update, Merck’s Keytruda shows promise in the treatment of blood cancer multiple melanomas. In the clinical trial conducted, they tested the drug in patients whose cancer progressed despite undergoing a battery of treatment options. The overall response rate of patients was 76 percent which means that most patients had reduction in cancer cells.
Aside from melanoma and lung cancer, scientists tested the drug in 30 tumor types. In fact, it recently received a breakthrough designation from U.S. FDA for its effect on colorectal cancer.