Keytruda, the cancer drug that helped Jimmy Carter, helps others live longer
The same cancer drug that appears to have cleared tumors from Jimmy Carter’s brain has helped more than 200 other patients live for as long as three years, doctors reported Wednesday.
The drug’s called Keytruda, and it works in a new way to help the body’s own immune system tackle hard-to-reach tumor cells.
A new report about to be released to a meeting of cancer specialists shows that 40 percent of the melanoma patients who have been testing Keytruda are still alive, three years after they started taking the drug. Their normal life expectancy should have been about 11 months.
“This is huge in the melanoma community,” said Tim Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation.
“When this study was started the average life expectancy of someone with advanced melanoma was 11 months and now we’re seeing that a large percentage of people are living at least three years,” says Turnham.
For Carter, who was diagnosed last fall, it’s meant he’s able to continue teaching Sunday school classes and even travel abroad.
But it’s too soon to call it a cure.
“It’s difficult to know at what point you call it a cure. For the patient though, it means they are cancer-free and for some of those patients, it is likely that their cancer never will come back,” says Turnham.
The report will be featured at ASCO’s annual meeting in Chicago next month.