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New Cancer Drug Shows Positive Results in Battling Tumors

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Keytruda, the new cancer drug developed by Merck & Co. because of the drug’s outstanding results in fighting tumors.


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In an article by the New York Times, it was revealed that the drug was accidentally discovered because of a ‘failed trial’. A drug called nivolumab was tested to 33 patients suffering from colon cancer but failed to produce any significant effect to all but one patient. The positive effect of the drug to that one patient could have been incidental and insignificant, if not for the fact his cancer disappeared completely.

This led experts from John Hopkins to dig deeper on what was unique about that one patient and Dr. Diaz, a geneticist, eventually learned the answer: “a genetic mutation that prevented the tumor from repairing DNA damage.”



This discovery led Dr. Diaz and his colleagues to study more on the matter. They provided cancer patients whose tumors had the same genetic defect with a PD-1 blocker and were completely blown away with the results.

One notable patient in the study was 60-year-old Adrienne Skinner, a woman suffering from ampullary cancer, an extremely rare and fatal kind wherein there is no known treatment.

Skinner tried two kinds of chemotherapy for a year to no avail. Fortunately, she qualified for Dr. Diaz’s clinical trial and was able to receive her first drug dose in April of 2015. After about three months, results of a biopsy revealed that Skinner’s tumor was gone.



She continued receiving the drug just to be sure as the trial requires patients to receive the drug for two years. Although she stopped receiving treatment last year, she has remained cancer-free.

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is the first drug ever approved by the FDA that is intended specifically for combatting tumors that share a particular genetic profile, regardless of the location of the tumor inside the body.

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