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    Four oncology treatment advances to watch


    4. Biomarkers

    Another breakthrough occurred in May, with the FDA granting accelerated approval of a treatment for patients whose cancers have a specific genetic feature (also known as a biomarker). This is the first time the agency approved a cancer treatment based on a common biomarker rather than where the tumor originated in the body.

    Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is indicated to treat adult and pediatric patients with unresectable or metastatic solid tumors that have a biomarker referred to as microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR). Specifically, it is for patients with solid tumors that have progressed following prior treatment and don’t have satisfactory alternative treatment options and patients with colorectal cancer that has progressed following treatment with certain chemotherapy drugs. “This heralds the future of drug approvals by the genomic signature,” DeRosa says. MSI-H and dMMR tumors contain abnormalities that prevent proper repair of DNA.

    FDA previously approved Keytruda to treat certain patients with metastatic melanoma, metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer, refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma, and urothelial carcinoma.

    Balance required

    The revolution in immune-oncology is clear; it will make tremendous changes in oncology healthcare. “It will affect the short and long-term use of various other oncology-related services, as well as decrease hospitalization rates,” Kesari says. “Combination treatments with traditional surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy will evolve over time.”

    Nonetheless, as the cost of cancer care continues to rise, the challenge ahead is to not only do the best for each patient therapeutically but given the potential financial consequence of therapy to the patient, strive to give the most efficacious treatment at every step of the treatment continuum, DeRosa concludes.

    Karen Appold is a medical writer in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.




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