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Prostate Cancer ‘super responders’ could live for two more years on Keytruda

Published on 28/11/19 at 03:15pm

Men with advanced prostate cancer, who have exhausted all treatment options, could use the immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to live for another two years or more.

A major clinical trial showed that a small proportion of men were ‘super responders’ and were alive and well even after the trial had ended, despite having had a very poor prognosis before treatment.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that the most dramatic responses came in patients whose tumours had mutations in genes involved in repairing DNA. The researchers are investigating whether this group might especially benefit from immunotherapy.

One in 20 men with end-stage prostate cancer responded to Keytruda, and while the number who benefited was small, these patients gained years of extra life.

Among a group of 166 patients with particularly advanced diseases, and high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), the average length of survival was 8.1 months with Keytruda. A second group of patients with lower PSA levels but whose disease had spread to the bone, lived for an average of 14.1 months on the drug.

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said the study is “fantastic news”, adding: “It's encouraging to see testing for DNA repair mutations may identify some patients who are more likely to respond, and I'm keen to see how the new, larger trial in this group of patients plays out.”

The clinical trial was led by a team at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden Foundation Trust, with funding by the drug’s manufacturer MSD.

Conor Kavanagh

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