Keytruda with chemotherapy to be the first line


(Left to right) Dr Tho Lye Mun, Ashish Pal, Dr Matin Mellor Abdullah, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Subang Jaya Medical Centre and Dr Murallitharan Munisamy, Medical Director, National Cancer Society Malaysia at the launch of Keytruda in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of advanced lung cancer.
Merck Sharp & Dohme (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (MSD) recently launched Keytruda (Pembrolizumab), in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of advanced lung cancer. 

The treatment, which is the first-of-its-kind to be used in combination with chemotherapy in Malaysia, has been proven to improve patient survival by 50 per cent compared to chemotherapy alone. It also helps to increase the rate of post-treatment remission while enhance overall quality of life amongst lung cancer patients.

This pioneering treatment is now available for patients with metastatic non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer, which makes up between 80 – 85 per cent of all lung cancer diagnosis.

It is also the first-line of treatment that oncologists will prescribe or take into consideration following a patient’s late stage cancer diagnosis, for this cancer type, following approval by the Ministry of Health (MoH) Malaysia and Drug Control Authority in October 2018.

Lung cancer third most common cancer in Malaysia
The introduction of this new combination therapy is indeed timely as WHO reported that lung cancer is one of the leading cancers worldwide at 2.1 million estimated diagnosis in 2018. In Malaysia on the other hand, lung cancer is the third most common cancer after breast and colorectal.

Furthermore, given the fact that lung cancer patients usually do not experience any signs or symptoms in the early stages, 90 per cent of lung cancer cases in Malaysia are only detected at late stages (stage 3 and 4). Such late diagnosis reduces patients’ treatment options.

​As a result, lung cancer has the lowest patient survival rate compared to other cancers. Five-year relative patient survival rate currently stand at 11 per cent and whereas lung cancer patients on average survive for about 6.8 months after being diagnosed.

Speaking at the launch, Ashish Pal (pix), Managing Director of MSD Malaysia and Singapore said, the launch is a significant step forward to generate a new standard of care for lung cancer patients in Malaysia and beyond.

“Immuno-oncology – the idea of harnessing the immune system to fight cancer cells is a new and exciting cancer therapy innovation that MSD has placed great emphasis on over the past few years. This latest introduction of Keytruda in combination with chemotherapy is considered the most significant development in immuno-oncology to date. We look forward to working collaboratively with National Cancer Society Malaysia, Malaysian Oncological Society as well as all private and public healthcare professionals in making Keytruda more widely accessible to lung cancer patients all over the country in the near future.”

Dr Toh Lye Mun, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Sunway Medical Centre added, “Lung cancer sufferers experience a poor quality of life following their diagnosis. We see this improve significantly with patients who undergo immunotherapy with Keytruda. Therefore we welcome this announcement as it will bring great new hope to lung cancer patients and caregivers in the country.”

Keytruda was first introduced in Malaysia in 2016 as the first line monotherapy treatment for melanoma (skin cancer) and first line monotherapy treatment for advance lung cancer. Today it has been approved for eight indications across five tumour types;  the broadest of any immuno-oncology treatment in the country.