Merck's Keytruda gets presidential lift as Jimmy Carter announces he's cancer-free
- Former President Jimmy Carter said he is cancer-free at a Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Georgia. He shared the news the same week he learned the four melanoma lesions on his brain were gone. There are no new lesions.
- When Carter was first diagnosed with melanoma in August, the prognosis was bleak. At that point, his melanoma had spread to his brain and liver.
- The treatment regimen started with surgically removing the cancerous tumor from the liver, which was followed by radiation treatment. He then received four rounds of treatment with Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Merck's anti-PD1 immunotherapy.
When Keytruda was approved in September 2014, it marked the beginning of the immuno-oncologic age. Keytruda is once again making history now that 90 year-old Jimmy Carter has experienced complete remission of a very hard-to-treat tumor at an advanced stage.
Carter's response to Keytruda is better than the average for most patients. His age is actually an advantage because immunotherapy works by targeting mutations on cells. Older people tend to have more mutations in their cells with melanoma and those added mutations make it more likely the therapy targets the cancerous cells.
Additionally, there is more hope the cancer won't return with immunotherapy. With old-line chemotherapeutic agents, a patient's cancer often develops resistance against treatment. In contrast, immunotherapy leads the immune system to recognize mutated cancerous cells and to seek them out and destroy them.
These results give renewed hope for Carter and also bode well for other patients with metastatic melanoma tumors.