Merck & Co has stated that the late-stage trials for its immunotherapy Keytruda to treat advanced melanoma has showed over half of the patients were alive two years after treatment had first began.

The data gathered was part of multiple study results for its immunotherapy Keytruda in several cancer indications.

Merck said the trial drug showed better results compared with a 43% survival rate for patients receiving ipilimumab.

Gillian Nuttall, Founder of Melanoma UK said; "Advanced melanoma is a disease with a poor prognosis and historically only one in ten patients are still alive a year after diagnosis. This latest Keytruda study is very promising and provides an encouraging picture of patients with melanoma living for longer.”

In addition, the drug candidate showed positive early-stage results in head and neck cancer as well as lung cancer, Merck said.

MSD currently has the largest immuno-oncology clinical development programme in head and neck cancer, encompassing all stages of advanced disease. The company is also advancing research that investigates OS and progression-free survival (PFS) endpoints with Keytruda as a monotherapy, as well as in combining the treatment with chemotherapy compared to standard of care.

Mike Nally, UK Managing Director, MSD said: “The results presented at ASCO add to a growing body of data supporting the potential benefit pembrolizumab may have across a wide range of difficult-to-treat cancers. Our immuno-oncology clinical programme, which has UK trial centres at its heart, now includes more than 30 tumour types in more than 270 clinical trials, including 100 trials that combine pembrolizumab with other cancer treatments.”

Keytruda is a humanised monoclonal antibody, one of the first of a new generation of therapies that work by blocking the biological pathways cancers use to disguise themselves from the body’s immune system. Specifically, it blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2.

By binding to the PD-1 receptor and blocking the interaction with the receptor ligands, Keytruda releases the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the anti-tumour immune response.

MSD is advancing a broad clinical development program for Keytruda with more than 100 clinical trials – across more than 30 tumour types, the company said in a statement.

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