Pembrolizumab or Keytruda is a drug manufactured by Merck Pharmaceuticals. Keytruda was given accelerated approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) on October 2, 2015. Keytrunda is a programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) blocking antibody. It is a humanized monoclonal immunoglobulin (Ig) G4 antibody directed against human cell surface receptor PD-1 with potential immune checkpoint inhibitory and antineoplastic activities. The NSCLC tumor must express programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) as determined by an FDA approved test, with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients whose cancer has certain gene mutations should receive this drug only after their disease got worse after treatment with FDA- approved therapy for the gene mutation. Pembrolizumab is also approved for melanoma that cannot be removed by surgery or that has metastasized.
How does Pembrolizumab work with the Immune System?
Pembrolizumab works with your immune system in a very specific way. It will not work with all cancers. At this point Clinical Trials are being conducted for its indications in other cancers. The cancers that Pembrolizumab is being trialed on include bladder, breast, colorectal, esophageal, gastric, head and neck, hematology, lung, and melanoma.
Pembrolizumab and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma tumors are all different. By finding and understanding the proteins that the tumor secretes it is hoped that the drug can target the immune system cancer-specific antigens. Once targeted the drug will then activate the immune system to seek out the cancer targets. Research is continuing in the sustainability of the treatment. If sustainable, is it a cure? This is all research that needs clinical trials to follow patients over time and measure the results.
Pembrolizumab is administered intravenously. The dose is 2mg per kilogram. A person weighing 170 pounds would receive 155mg. It would be infused intravenously over 30 minutes every 3 weeks.
Side effects include fatigue, decreased appetite, dyspnea- and cough.
Adverse reactions include immune mediated pneumonitis, colitis, hepatitis, nephritis.
More information can be found about Pembrolizumab on www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/drugs/pembrolizumab
Pembrolizumab and Mesothelioma Clinical Trials
Presently there are 3 Clinical Trials listed on www.ClinicalTrials.gov involving mesothelioma and Pembrolizumab. We strongly encourage you to consider these clinical trials. Immunotherapy can be a promising treatment option against mesothelioma. The only way for this potentially exciting treatment option to be proven for mesothelioma is participation in a Clinical Trial.