- As an immunologic cancer treatment, Keytruda (pembrolizumab) offers hope to patients, such as former President Carter, who has metastatic melanoma.
- Carter, who is 90 years old, has melanoma that has metastasized to his brain.
- His treatment regimen includes targeted radiation, known as stereotactic radiation, and treatment with Keytruda, along with other treatments.
There has been a radical shift in the prospects of patients diagnosed with brain metastases. However, there are now cases where patients who are treated with targeted radiation to the brain live for years. And when that therapy is accompanied by an immunologic treatment, such as Keytruda, which harnesses the power of the immune system, there is the possibility that outcomes may be improved.
Although there is limited data on how well Keytruda, which was approved for treatment of advanced melanoma, works for brain metastases, there is some promising evidence. For example, in a Yale University study, Keytruda significantly shrank tumors in 4 out of 14 melanoma patients. Now the trial has been expanded and researchers have seen cases in which Keytruda-treated brain tumors disappeared competely.
The treatment strategy being applied to former President Carter involves targeting the brain lesions that are visible, while allowing the immune system, which has been 'turned on' by Keytruda, to scavenge the rest. Overall, Mr. Carter's prognosis is improved by the fact that the brain tumors are small and were discovered early.