A Breakthrough Cancer Drug: Pembrolizumab


Here is a simple question to ponder, although not the easiest one to provide a response with. Which medical advancements have had the most significant impact on mankind? If we ask a group of world – renowned physicians and intellectuals on what they think, how would they answer? How could they respond to something that has impacted millions of lives in the process?
Medical breakthroughs are vital in the process of eradicating major diseases and illnesses that pose a threat to the comfort of our lives. When we think of cancer (A broad term for a multitude of various diseases caused by abnormal cell growth and division), we often think of the “uncurable disease.” Yet, just recently a multinational, pharmaceutical company, “Merck”, has broken through the doors of modern medicine, with their drug: “Keytruda” (Pembrolizumab).
Advanced kidney cancer (RCC), microsatellite instability-high cancer, High-risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC), melanoma, Classical Hodgkin lymphoma, advanced gastric cancer, primary mediastinal B cell lymphoma, advanced liver cancer (HCC), advanced Merkel cell carcinoma, and advanced esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. With the potential to cure these diseases, Keytruda is allowing for new hope to emerge within families, as they realize that there is an opportunity for their loved ones to overcome and beat these types of cancer.
Pembrolizumab is one of the first effective cancer immunotherapies created. A multitude of research studies and clinical trials have shown significant results when using Keytruda, and treatment on actual patients has proved successful. 41% of patients on this drug have witnessed a complete recovery for at least a year. As such a top selling drug, Merck has witnessed sales over 7 billion dollars, and is one of the main reasons its stock price grew.
Let’s take a look at how it works:
To create anti-cancer monoclonal antibodies in a biochemical setting, scientists examine specific antigens on the surface of the cancerous cells. Following that, biochemical engineers and oncologists will use animal and human proteins, which will create a specific antibody which will bind to these cancerous cells. The anti – cancer monoclonal antibodies will then specifically attach to the antigen on these cancerous cells, like a key/lock mechanism. Keytruda is an extremely selective humanized monoclonal IgG4 protein directed against the PD-1 (A pathway cancerous cells might use to hide from the body) structure on the surface of the cell. This drug stops the PD-1 structure, preventing binding and stimulation of PD-L1 and PD-L2 (Which masks these cancerous cells from the T – Cells that would have otherwise destroyed it). This device induces the stimulation of T-cell mediated immune reactions against tumor cells, allowing the drug to essentially enable the body to fight these cancerous cells: also known as immunotherapy.
Approved for use against 9 different types of cancer from the FDA in the USA, the list continues to grow, as Keytruda continues to showcase its incredibility as an immunotherapy. The immune system remains as the vast ocean of our body, and we have yet plunge towards the depths of it. With drugs like pembrolizumab being created, our knowledge of the immune system continues to grow. Patients will be filled with warmth and sanguinity, as they realize the potential that the future holds for them.
Keytruda is a message of hope, not fear. A message of capability, rather than impairment. Most importantly, Keytruda is a symbol of recovery and love, rather than injury. With the continuation of revolutionary medical breakthroughs, our advancement of medicine will continue to progress, allowing us to save millions of lives in the progress.