The European Commission has approved MSD’s Keytruda for use in combination with Eli Lilly’s Alimta and platinum-based chemotherapy for the first-line treatment of some advanced lung cancers.
Specifically, the decision allows use of the combination in patients with metastatic non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have no EGFR or ALK positive mutations.
Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is the first immunotherapy to be approved by the EC for treatment of NSCLC in combination with chemotherapy, on the back of data from the KEYNOTE-189 trial, which showed that the combination cut the risk of death by more than 50% compared to Alimta (pemetrexed) and platinum-based chemotherapy alone.
A reduction in the risk of disease progression or death of 48% was also observed with pembrolizumab in combination with pemetrexed and platinum-based chemotherapy.
“This decision is likely to bring a step change in the way we treat lung cancer,” said Gary Middleton, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Birmingham. “It opens up treatment with pembrolizumab to anyone with non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer, that has spread to other parts of the body.”
“By combining immunotherapies with chemotherapy we are seeing remarkable benefits for patients, without adding a similar level of side-effects seen with chemotherapy on its own,” added Vanessa Beattie, chair of the National Lung Cancer Forum for Nurses and clinical nurse specialist at Aintree University Hospital, Liverpool.
The UK currently has the second worse survival rate for lung cancer in Europe with only 8% of patients surviving more than five years, highlighting the need for new treatment options and approaches.