Advances in Immunotherapy Starting to Define Cancer Treatment

Advances in Immunotherapy Starting to Define Cancer Treatment

A handful of drugs recently developed and approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration are expanding the emerging role of immunotherapy medicines in oncology. Immunotherapy harnesss the bodys immune system to fight cancer.

Chief among these are the immune checkpoint inhibitors, which are currently the most widely used, and widely publicized type of immunotherapy treatment.  All cells in the body make proteins. Certain types of cancers grow and proliferate by making proteins that inhibit the immune system.  These new therapies work by targeting the immune checkpoint proteins that cancer cells use to put a brake on an immune response.  By blocking the cancer cells from making these proteins with an immune checkpoint inhibitor, the brakes on the immune system are released and the immune system is more effective at killing these cancerous cells.  Currently, the FDA approved immune checkpoint inhibitors include drugs that block the checkpoint proteins known as CTLA-4, PD-1 and PD-L1.

Recent FDA-Immunotherapy approvals

Keytruda

  • September 2014 Second-line treatment for advanced melanoma.
  • October 2015 Second-line treatment for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients whose tumors express the PD-L1 protein.
  • December 2015 First-line treatment for advanced melanoma.
  • August 2016 Second-line treatment for recurrent or advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
  • October 2016 First-line treatment for advanced NSCLC in patients whose tumors have a high expression of the PD-L1 protein.

Yervoy

  • March 2011 First-line treatment for advanced melanoma.
  • October 2015 Adjuvant treatment for melanoma following surgery.

Opdivo

  • December 2014 Second-line treatment for advanced melanoma.
  • March 2015 Second-line treatment for advanced squamous non-small-cell lung cancer (SCLC).
  • October 2015 Second-line treatment for advanced NSCLC.
  • November 2015 Second-line treatment for advanced renal cell carcinoma.
  • May 2016 Second-line treatment for Hodgkins disease.
  • November 2016 Second-line treatment for recurrent or advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
  • February 2017  Second-line treatment for advanced bladder cancer.
  • October 2015 Second-line treatment for advanced melanoma.
  • January 2016 First-line treatment for advanced melanoma.

Tecentriq

  • May 2016 Second-line treatment for bladder cancer.
  • October 2016 Second-line treatment for advanced NSCLC in patients who test positive for the EGFR or ALK gene abnormalities.

Arzerra

  • October 2009  Second-line treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
  • January 2016  Extended treatment for patients with recurrent or progressive CLL who are in complete or partial response following at least two lines of therapy.
  • August 2016  Second-line treatment in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide for patients with relapsed CLL.

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