Skin Cancer

Another first for immunotherapy

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Science  29 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6434, pp. 1412-1413
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6434.1412-c

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. Nghiem et al. report a phase 2 clinical trial in which the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab was tested as the initial (first-line) treatment for 50 patients with advanced MCC. Pembrolizumab is an inhibitor of programmed cell death protein 1 that works by releasing the brakes from certain immune cells so that they can better attack and destroy tumors. The researchers found that 24% of patients had complete tumor remission after immunotherapy, and more than half of all patients in the trial were observed to have long-lasting responses. Immunotherapy was more effective and produced longer patient survival than that expected from conventional chemotherapy.

J. Clin. Oncol. 37, 693 (2019).

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