Drug to treat lung can­cer

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A new drug which was re­cently funded for melanoma treat­ment is now reg­is­tered for lung can­cer treat­ment in New Zealand.

Keytruda (pem­brolizumab) this week re­ceived its sec­ond Med­safe regis­tra­tion for lung can­cer, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) an­nounced. That meant Keytruda is now reg­is­tered for PD-L1 pos­i­tive pa­tients with ad­vanced non­s­mall cell lung can­cer (NSCLC).

MSD New Zealand Di­rec­tor Paul Smith said the drug had the po­ten­tial to trans­form the way lung can­cer is treated. He said there was rea­son to be­lieve Keytruda should re­place plat­inum-based chemo­ther­apy as the stan­dard of care for ad­vanced NSCLC.

Philip Hope, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Lung Foun­da­tion New Zealand, said Keytruda was a ‘‘hugely wel­come step for­ward in en­sur­ing New Zealan­ders can ben­e­fit from this new gen­er­a­tion of treat­ments’’.

Lung can­cer is the coun­try’s big­gest can­cer killer.

Smith said MSD made an ap­pli­ca­tion to Phar­mac, the Government’s drug fund­ing agency, for fund­ing of Keytruda in ad­vanced NSCLC.

Last year, Phar­mac an­nounced it would fund Keytruda for treat­ment of ad­vanced melanoma from Septem­ber 1, 2016.

Politi­cians and pa­tients had lob­bied hard for the drug. Some pa­tients had been pri­vately fund­ing the treat­ment at a cost of hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for a two-year course.

It fol­lowed Phar­mac’s de­ci­sion in June that year to fund Op­divo (nivolumab), an­other melanoma treat­ment.

‘‘...a hugely wel­come step for­ward.’’

Philip Hope

123RF

Lung canser is the coun­try’s big­gest can­cer killer with more than 1600 Ki­wis dy­ing of it each year.

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