opdivo IDR Medical newsThe cancer drug Opdivo (nivolumab) may offer hope of a longer life for some patients with advanced lung cancer.

Currently, only about 5 percent of patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer survive five years or more. But that rate rose to about 16 percent among a group taking Opdivo.

Opdivo is an immunotherapy drug, which means it enlists the patient’s own immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. It works by blocking the activity of a protein called PD-1. This allows the patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

“This is incredible news that a single PD-1 inhibitor currently used as a standard of care can cure 16 percent of patients with advanced lung cancer,” said Dr. Yanis Boumber, an assistant professor of hematology and oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

“Of course, the bar will keep rising in advanced lung cancer, and combination immunotherapy treatments are expected to raise this number in the future,” said Boumber, who wasn’t involved in the study. “But for now, this is extremely exciting.”

Opdivo is approved in the United States as a treatment for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer after other treatments fail, Brahmer said.

Immunotherapy treatments tend to be very costly, but the researchers behind the study could not offer a price tag. Opdivo is covered by insurance, the researchers said.

The new survival data come from long-term follow-up of the initial phase 1 clinical trial — the first of three that preceded approval. In that trial, 129 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer that had spread elsewhere in the body were treated with one to three doses of the drug for two years.

For this report, patients were followed for a minimum of about 58 months. Sixteen patients survived for five years or longer, the researchers said.

However, four patients stopped treatment early because of side effects, Brahmer said.

Further research is needed to understand more about patients’ responses, including who can discontinue treatment at two years and who will need more treatment, she said.

Most patients who have failed chemotherapy are candidates for this drug, Brahmer said. However, Opdivo might not be suitable for someone with an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, or for transplant recipients, she noted.

In addition to lung cancer, Opdivo is approved to treat melanoma, head and neck cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney cancer and bladder cancer, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Source – Lebanon Express