Keytruda, a new hope

The issue of Keytruda has become near and dear to my heart the past few weeks with a close family member taking it to treat his lung cancer.

Keytruda is an immunotherapy drug that instead of poisoning the body, uses the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. It’s been very effective for melanoma.

Keytruda is sometimes known as “The Jimmy Carter drug.” He is the most famous Keytruda patient. In 2015, Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in his brain and liver and was given months to live. Three years later, after being given Keytruda on an experimental basis, he’s still kicking and cancer-free. In fact, now, many cancer patients are left asking their doctors “can I get the Jimmy Carter medication”?

That doesn’t mean Keytruda is some kind of “miracle drug.” It hasn’t worked on everyone. But, after being shown that it was more effective than chemotherapy for melanoma, they started giving it to lung cancer patients.

This is the best description I’ve seen about Keytruda. That it “wakes up” the body’s natural immune system and teaches it to recognize that cancer cells are not normal cells and need to be destroyed.

Keytruda is manufactured by Merck and its chemical name is pembrolizumab. There’s some similar auto-immune cancer drugs, one of which is called Opdivo.

The drug has created so much buzz that it’s gotten attention in L.A. Times articles that it could be a more effective first-line defence against lung cancer than traditional chemotherapy.

Some people call Keytruda a “miracle drug,” but it isn’t quite that. Not yet. It doesn’t cure everyone with melanoma or lung cancer, but apparently it is more effective than traditional chemotherapy. It’s a promising breakthrough. It works fantastic for some people.

Hopefully, immunotherapy will ultimately lead to a total cure for lung cancer.

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