Keytruda is a recent FDA approved skin cancer drug for the treatment for malignant melanoma.

Developed by Merck, Keytruda is the trade name and it’s generic name is pembrolizumab.

Keytruda is approved for the treatment of patients with advanced, or metastatic, melanoma or with melanoma that can not be treated with surgery or where the patient’s cancer is not improving after treatment with other cancer drugs. Metastatic refers to a cancer that has spread to other areas such as the bones, lung, or liver.

This new immunotherapy drug works with a patient’s immune system to target melanoma. It works as a human programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1)-blocking antibody, killing melanoma cancer cells by increasing the body’s antitumor immune response to the melanoma. Melanoma cells generally contain the protein PD-L1 on their surface which helps these cells from detection and being destroyed by the body’s immune system. Immunotherapy drugs such as Kadycla that block the PD-L1 protein, or the corresponding PD-1 protein on immune cells may assist the patient’s immune system to recognize and attack the melanoma cells.

How Keytruda Works

Keytruda is intended to be used after the treatment of Yervoy (ipilimumab), another immunotherapy drug and if the patient is BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor, which attacks the BRAF protein directly.

Keytruda is given by intravenous infusion every 3 weeks for as long as it is working.

In the initial study, an overall response rate of 38% was seen. That means 38% of the patients who received Keytruda had a improvement in their melanoma.The disease free survival is approximately 7 months, and the overall survival is 70% at 18 months. Additional survival information is not yet available.

Side Effects
Possible side effects with Keytruda may include the following: Fatigue, itching, rash, diarrhea, joint pain, and headache.

Immune related side effects include : Immune-mediated pneumonitis, colitis, hepatitis, hypophysitis, renal failure and nephritis, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Based on its mechanism of action, Keytruda may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Women should not become pregnant while taking Keytruda.

Talk to your doctor to determine if Keytruda is right for your cancer treatment.

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