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Novel Immunotherapy Drug May Treat Advanced Lung Cancer

At least one-quarter of patients with advanced lung cancer have brain metastasis. Radiation has been the standard treatment option, but with patients experiencing toxic side effects.

Researchers have discovered a checkpoint inhibitor, pembrolizumab, which can be used instead of radiation to extend the patient’s life. The drug has very few side effects.

The findings found that patient response to the drug depended on their level of PD-L1 biomarker expressed in the tumors. The overall survival for those that responded was 40% at one year and 34% at two years.

The survival rates in this study were higher than those in previous studies on brain metastasis from non-small cell lung cancer.

The study is the first to specifically test the benefits of treatment in lung cancer patients whose tumors recurred after radiation or those who’ve not undergone brain metastasis treatment. 

This shows that brain metastasis can respond to targeted immunotherapy treatment. Pembrolizumab has proven to be beneficial to the lungs in those patients with advanced lung cancers since it can control their brain tumors.

The study was conducted on patients without neurologic issues or large tumors to avoid any harm or side effects. But afterward, it was found that the drug was safe with very few neurologic side effects that are unrelated to the drug.

Patients with PD-L1 activity responded well to pembrolizumab, but those without did not respond. Researchers believe that these patients who responded well had increased PD-L1 expression. However, this theory will have to be tested first.

Further investigation and biomarkers are needed to verify the effectiveness of this checkpoint inhibitor. This will help more patients to try out the new drug to treat their brain metastasis and lung cancer. Radiation can be administered afterward, if necessary.

The researchers will work on a new study to determine whether this therapy can become a tool in the non-small cell lung cancer brain metastasis treatment.

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