WHAT IS KEYTRUDA?
Keytruda is a type of immunotherapy for cancer treatment. The main component of Keytruda is pembrolizumab. The cure helps the immune system find cancerous cells and destroy them on its own. The drug is available as an infusion for injections.
Keytruda was approved for cancer treatment in the USA in 2014. In 2015 the European Commission approved it for the treatment of skin cancer. Other countries are currently undergoing clinical trials for the drug's safety, so it is only possible to obtain treatment with this drug abroad.
FOR WHICH DISEASES IS KEYTRUDA PRESCRIBED?
According to the Merck pharmaceutical company, Keytruda is effective against 15 types of cancer. The best results are obtained in the treatment of melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer, classic Hodgkin lymphoma and stomach cancer. The medicine is prescribed for those patients whose tumour cannot be removed surgically or if treatment with chemotherapy has proved unsuccessful.
INDICATIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
Keytruda can be taken by adult patients who are not allergic to the ingredients. The drug may not be used during pregnancy and lactation. It is contraindicated to patients with moderate to severe renal failure. The drug can be prescribed to people with diabetes mellitus with additional precautions.
DIFFERENCE FROM ALTERNATIVE METHODS
Unlike other immunotherapies, Keytruda is the first approved medicine whose mechanism takes into account the genetics of the tumour and not the type of tissue or tumour site.
In contrast to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, the drug has an indirect effect on the tumour. Keytruda does not destroy cancer cells. Instead, it helps the immune system recognize them more effectively.
DIAGNOSIS BEFORE TAKING KEYTRUDA
The decision to prescribe the drug is based on a genetic test for protein expression PD-1 (PD-L1). It was created in Israel, in the laboratory of the Sourasky Medical Centre (Ichilov). The test shows the presence and activity of PD-1 protein on the surface of cancer cells. The higher the activity of this protein, the more effective Keytruda treatment will be. At the moment, this test is considered the most reliable.
HOW DOES KEYTRUDA TREAT CANCER?
The surface of lymphocytes may contain PD-1 protein. It protects healthy cells from being destroyed by their immune system. Cancer cells can secrete their protein, which binds to PD-1. In this way, the PD-1 protein begins to protect cancer cells from an attack by the immune system. In some people, this protein is more active, in others, it is not.
Keytruda is prescribed to patients with active PD-1. The ingredient inhibits protein activity. This enables the immune cells to destroy cancer cells and reduces the tumour.
If the genetic test results show a small amount of PD-L1 protein on the surface of cancer cells or its low activity, no medication is prescribed. It will not cure the tumour or may lead to deterioration.
DURATION OF KEYTRUDA THERAPY
The number of treatment courses depends on the type and stage of cancer. On average, the drug is taken once every three weeks. The injection of the drug takes 30 minutes. Patients may be prescribed between 3 and 24 courses. During treatment, the patient must be under the supervision of a doctor or regularly visit the clinic.
Keytruda saved lives even in the 4th stage of cancer with metastases all over the body. Due to its high efficacy, the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission authorised treatment with this drug before the final stage of clinical trials for patients with advanced cancer had been completed.
The results of KEYNOTE's many years of clinical trials show impressive efficacy:
Melanoma has the best results with Keytruda: 67% of patients had an improvement in their condition and 6% had a complete recovery. The effectiveness of Keytruda's treatment is 5 times higher than conventional chemotherapy.
Neck and head cancer
In 19% of patients with neck and head cancer, tumours decreased after taking Keytruda. In 36% of patients who took the drug at the same time as chemotherapy, there was an improvement compared to conventional treatment. In 5% of patients, the tumour disappeared completely.
In 53% of patients with neglected non-small cell lung cancer, the disease went into remission for 10 months after taking Keytruda. In 30% of patients who received chemotherapy after Keytruda, the tumour became smaller. In comparison, after sole chemotherapy courses, the tumour decreased in 8% of patients.
For gastric cancer in Stages 3 and 4, the combination of Keytruda and chemotherapy is twice as effective as chemotherapy alone: around 60% of patients are in remission for six months. Without immunotherapy, doctors predicted their lives would last from several weeks to 3 months.
In 90% of patients with cervical cancer, the development of the tumour stopped for more than six months after taking Keytruda. Complete disappearance of the tumour was observed in 3% of women.
Keytruda is used to treat triple negative breast cancer with metastases, an aggressive form of this disease. The life expectancy of patients treated with Keytruda together with chemotherapy is almost twice as long in comparison to those who only undergo chemo.
SIDE-EFFECTS AND COMPLICATIONS AFTER TAKING KEYTRUDA
The drug can cause strong side effects. They arise because Keytruda inhibits the activity of the PD-1 protein in all types of cells and the immunity starts to attack healthy cells. It is therefore only prescribed when the protein activity is high. In this case, cancer develops precisely because of the presence of immunity protection and Keytruda's action is adequate for the development of the disease. The number of cancerous cells killed is significantly higher than the number of healthy cells that have been destroyed. If the activity of PD-1 is low, the development of cancer is not related to immunity and the drug will kill healthy cells in vain.
The expression of side effects is individual. Some patients are treated with minimal complications, while others with cancer may complain about pain, fatigue and inflammation in the internal organs.
Clinical studies have shown that 14% of cancer patients have strong side effects. You should inform your doctor if any of the symptoms occur. Patients who take the drug are more likely to complain about:
Side effects can occur both during treatment and a few months after completion of treatment. For this reason, the patient should always carry a Keytruda card with the doctor's contact details.
REHABILITATION AFTER KEYTRUDA
The patient must see a doctor once every six months and report any deterioration, even after the treatment has been completed. The change in wellbeing may be a side effect of cancer treatment. The patient should also have a blood test every 3 months.
THE COST OF KEYTRUDA IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
As the drug is produced by one company, its cost is approximately the same for clinics in different countries. The price of Keytruda is between $2,000 and $3,000 per course. A lower or higher price may be a sign of counterfeiting.
WHICH CLINICS PRESCRIBE KEYTRUDA?
When choosing a clinic, you need to make sure that it has been approved for treatment with this drug. At the same time, the drug must be ordered from a direct manufacturer - a pharmaceutical company called MMerck&Co or another company that has received a production permit. Taking the medication from another manufacturer can lead to unpredictable side effects.
You can also buy the drug yourself. This cannot be done without the consent and supervision of a doctor.
Clinics that use the original Keitruda drug, which has passed quality and safety tests:
SOURASKY MEDICAL CENTRE (Israel)
This clinic was the first in Israel to receive a permit for treatment with Keytruda. The clinic's laboratory has created a reliable test that can predict with 90% accuracy the effectiveness of a drug for a patient. The centre also has an immunotherapy selection service for cancer patients.
UNIVERSITY CLINIC FREIBURG (Germany)
The Freiburg Clinic is among the top four cancer centres in Germany. Thanks to cooperation with the Albert and Ludwig University, new cancer treatment methods are constantly being investigated at the centre.
SOON-CHUN-HYANG MEDICAL CENTER (South Korea)
The hospital has a scientific laboratory that conducts clinical trials of new immunotherapy drugs. Experienced doctors prepare an individual programme of treatment with Keytruda for each patient.
LIV HOSPITAL (Turkey)
Personalised treatment for cancer is available at the Liv Clinic, including immunotherapy with Keytruda. The clinic's leading oncologists have more than 20 years of experience in treating patients.
NAVARRA UNIVERSITY CLINIC (Spain)
The Navarra University Clinic is one of the top medical institutions in Europe. The clinic is certified by the European Medical Oncology Community. Research into new methods of treating oncological diseases is one of the top priorities for doctors.
WIENER PRIVATKLINIK (Austria)
The Wiener Privatklinik is the best private hospital in Austria according to the Austrian Insurance Association. It is run by Christoph Zielinski, one of the country's most famous oncologists. He specialises in the treatment of serious oncological diseases.
PATIENT FEEDBACK ON KEYTRUDA
Kathy is the mother of two twins. During a family holiday on the beach, the woman began to have pains when walking. When she returned home, the scan showed blood clots in her legs. As a result of more detailed tests, a tumour was found in her lungs. It turned out that cancer had already spread to the spine and leg bone.
As the case turned out to be inoperable, Katie was assigned two courses of Keytruda. As a result, her tumour started to shrink and treatment continued. During the first course of treatment, Katie was nauseous and tired for a few days after her injections. Contrary to the diagnosis, she remains optimistic and believes in recovery.
KEYTRUDA TREATMENT OF THE USA PRESIDENT
The former US president, Jimmy Carter, was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 89. Within a few months, metastases had appeared in the liver and brain. Doctors gave an unfavourable survival prognosis. The only treatment possible for the man was to take a Keytruda course. The treatment was conducted by Israeli doctors. After 1.5 years, J. Carter reported an improvement in his health condition and the disease had retreated.
If you want to find out if Keytruda treatment is suitable for your case, write to our MediGlobus coordinators. We will help you to contact the clinic, where you can take a reliable test for drug compatibility.
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