ASH 2014: Merck Melanoma Drug Shows Promise Against Hodgkin's

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This presentation at the meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Francisco discussed Merck's drug Keytruda in Hodgkin's lymphoma patients whose disease progressed following prior therapies.

This was an eary stage trial that enrolled 29 Hodgkin's patients who either had a stem cell transplant or were not eligible for one. All patients had been previously treated with Adcetris. Among them, 66 percent had a "meaningful response" to Keytruda after a total of 24 weeks of treatment. Six patients, or 21 percent of them, achieved complete remission.

Another six patients had stable disease when the data was analyzed, while for four patients, Keytruda proved entirely ineffective.

That didn't prevent principal investigator Dr. Craig Moskowitz of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York from calling Keytruda "outstanding," adding that "It may be a small patient population, but it is really remarkable, and it's really well-tolerated."

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is part of a new class of anti-cancer drugs known as PD-1 inhibitors. PD-1 inhibitors work by blocking a mechanism tumors use to hide from the immune system.

Currently Keytruda is indicated for the treatment of advanced melanoma. This presentation is the first to explore this type of drug against a blood cancer. It is being investigated as a treatment for a number of other cancers.

These findings were presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 56th Annual Meeting. They should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: ASH 2014

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