In addition, the median "progression-free survival time", or the time patients went without their disease getting worse, was almost nine months in the immunotherapy group, compared with five months in the control group.
The study, which included more than 600 people, found that patients with a common type of lung cancer who received the so-called immunotherapy drug in combination with chemotherapy were 51 percent less likely to die over a period of 10.5 months compared with patients who received a placebo and chemotherapy (the control group). And it turns out that Keytruda, in combination with standard chemotherapy, also works in patients even if they have a low score on the lab test, which measures something called the tumor proportion score for PD-L1.
Recalling a patient with advanced lung cancer whose tumor disappeared and has not grown back after finishing treatment 24 months ago, Gomez said, "I'm now becoming much more optimistic that if we can really find a way to ideal this treatment and to really figure out who are the patients who do the best and why that we may be able to do something like get rid of lung cancer for at least some patients".
The NCC said in its recent report that lung cancer leads the cancer incidence table for male patients and ranks second among females, but the mortality of lung cancer is highest for both sexes, Global Times reports. But those drugs and rival immunotherapies from Roche and AstraZeneca are jockeying for pieces of the largest lung cancer market.
Merck presented promising results on Monday for its cancer drug Keytruda at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting. But when the drugs work, responses can be long-lasting, and researchers are rushing to find ways to combine treatments to improve their effects and to determine which formulation is best for each patient.
Bodies of missing Indian-American family members recovered
Still missing is the Thottapillys' son Siddhant, 12; search and rescue efforts are still underway to find the young boy. The family members were traveling from Portland, Oregon , to their home in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita.
Immunotherapy, which has had much of its success against less common forms of cancer, was discovered to greatly improve the survival rates for patients who are newly diagnosed with the most common form of lung cancer.
"We were all waiting to see a definitive Phase III study that showed very clear cut results", said Gandhi, director of thoracic medical oncology at NYU Langone in NY.
"This study showed a clear difference in long-term outcomes", said Dr. Leena Gandhi, the study's primary investigator, who called the results "practice changing".
They cost more than $100,000 a year, can have serious side effects and help only some patients, generally fewer than half. The estimated survival after a year was 69 % in those taking the immunotherapy drugs compared to 49 % who only had chemotherapy. However, the risk of one side effect, acute kidney injury, was higher for combination treated patients: 5.2% vs. 0.5%.
They said the nivolumab effectively converted the lung tumours into an "auto-vaccine", pumping the cancer-killing cells around the body. "That is extraordinary", he tells NBC. But that one week was frightful.
"It was like night and day", she said. "I was never sick". "We are going to have major increases in survival in the next 20 years, which would have been hard to say ten or 15 years ago".