Melanoma Rx May Treat Lung Cancer, Too

Keytruda (pembrolizumab), from Merck, FDA-approved to treat non-small cell lung cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Turns out a melanoma medication could also help patients with a different type of cancer.

That's why the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized).

The Merck and Co. drug was approved in 2014 to treat patients with advanced melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

NSCLC is the most common lung cancer type, according to the FDA. In some cases, NSCLC tumors produce a protein called PD-L1. Keytruda is only approved for use in patients with this type of NSCLC.

According to the FDA, Keytruda targets PD-L1, which may help the patient's immune system fight off cancer cells. The drug appeared to work in this way in a trial of 550 patients with advanced NSCLC.

Because Keytruda works through the immune system, it may cause serious immune system side effects. More common side effects include reduced appetite, fatigue, cough and breathing trouble.

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Review Date: 
October 5, 2015
Last Updated:
October 6, 2015