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FDA OKs First Cancer Drug by Genetic Type

By Randy Dotinga

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 24, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Many new cancer drugs goal genetic “biomarkers” which might be particular to tumors — wherever within the physique they could seem.

So on Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration introduced that, for the primary time, it had authorised a cancer drug based mostly on illness genetics somewhat than the physique half the place the cancer originated.

The drug, Keytruda (pembrolizumab), is focused to what are referred to as “mismatch repair genes,” and its approval means it may be used to battle tumors with these genes wherever they seem — within the colon, pancreas, stomach, ovaries or different physique websites.

“This is an important first for the cancer community,” Dr. Richard Pazdur, appearing director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products within the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, stated in an company information launch.

“Until now, the FDA has authorised most cancers remedies based mostly on the place within the physique the most cancers began — for instance, lung or breast cancers,” stated Pazdur, who additionally directs the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence. “We have now approved a drug based on a tumor’s biomarker without regard to the tumor’s original location.”

Keytruda, made by Merck & Co., targets tumors with DNA generally known as microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch restore poor (dMMR). As the FDA defined, these gene abnormalities have an effect on restore mechanisms contained in the cell.

“Tumors with these biomarkers are most commonly found in colorectal, endometrial and gastrointestinal cancers, but also less commonly appear in cancers arising in the breast, prostate, bladder, thyroid gland and other places,” the FDA stated within the information launch. “Approximately 5 percent of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer have MSI-H or dMMR tumors.”

Keytruda works by concentrating on a mobile pathway that helps the physique’s personal immune system assault the most cancers cells.

The drug had beforehand acquired separate approval for quite a lot of tumor varieties, corresponding to metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, metastatic melanoma, and different cancers.

That approval has been widened and Keytruda is now allowed for the remedy of adults and youngsters with sure tumors that may’t be surgically eliminated, or strong tumors which have unfold.


The FDA stated the drug is authorised to be used in two sorts of sufferers: Those who do not have options after tumors have progressed after remedy; and people with colorectal most cancers that is progressed after remedy with sure chemotherapy medicine.

The FDA stated 149 sufferers with tumors with the organic variations — 15 tumor varieties in all — took half in 5 separate research that led to the brand new approval. Tumors responded by both utterly or partially shrinking in 40 % of the sufferers. The findings additionally confirmed that greater than three-quarters of these sufferers had a response for at the very least six months.

The drug has many negative effects, together with some which might be critical — similar to inflammation of wholesome organs — so sufferers who expertise these problems ought to cease taking the drug. Women who’re pregnant or breast-feeding shouldn’t take the drug.

WebMD News from HealthDay


SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, information launch, May 23, 2017

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