Keytruda: Cure for Advanced Endometrial Cancer?


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Endometrial cancer, or cancer of the lining of the uterus, is the second most common form of cancer in women worldwide. When surgery and chemotherapy don’t work, the five-year survival rate is just 17 percent. Now, there’s an FDA-approved immunotherapy, Keytruda,  that experts say may be life-changing for women with advanced endometrial cancer.

This year alone, about 50,000 American women will be diagnosed with endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer. Chemotherapy can be effective, but not for every woman.

“I would tell patients, if your cancer comes back, it ultimately will win. It ultimately will kill you,” gynecologic oncologist at The Ohio State University, Dr. David O’Malley emphasizes.

(Read Full Interview)

Now, new research shows the cancer immunotherapy drug, Pembrolizumab, or Keytruda, is effective for treating aggressive endometrial cancer. Researchers tested the drug on patients with certain genetic gene mutations – MMR deficient, or MSI-high tumors. Keytruda works on the cell receptors that prevent the immune system from fighting the cancer.

Dr. O’Malley explains, “The cancer’s very smart. The immune cells get there, but the immune cells can’t do their job. And so, what this agent does is remove those blockers.”

Researchers say in this study, 48 percent of patients with advanced endometrial cancer had a partial, or even complete response.

“I didn’t think I would see that in my lifetime – cured of recurrent cancer based on these therapies,” Dr. O’Malley expresses.

Keytruda is already FDA approved for treating several other cancers including melanoma, lung, head and neck, cervical and stomach cancer.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium. Cancer of the endometrium is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs. Cancer of the endometrium is different than cancer of the connective tissue or muscle of the uterus, which is called uterine sarcoma. About 80 percent of all endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas. This means the cancer occurs in the cells that develop the glands in the endometrium. Endometrial cancer is highly curable when found early. The following factors may increase a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer: obesity, diet high in animal fat, family history of endometrial, ovarian and/or colon cancers, starting monthly periods before age 12, or late menopause. The risk for endometrial cancer increases as women get older, and it is most common in white women. Consult a doctor if you experience any/all of the following symptoms: bleeding or discharge not related to your periods, postmenopausal bleeding, difficult or painful urination, pain during intercourse, pain and/or mass in the pelvic area.

DIAGNOSING: To diagnose this cancer doctors will perform tests including: examining the pelvis. During a pelvic exam, your doctor carefully inspects the outer portion of your genitals, and then inserts two fingers of one hand into your vagina and simultaneously presses the other hand on your abdomen to feel your uterus and ovaries. He or she also inserts a device called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum opens your vagina so that your doctor can view your vagina and cervix for abnormalities. Another test is using sound waves to create a picture of your uterus.  In this procedure, a wand like device is inserted into your vagina. The transducer uses sound waves to create a video image of your uterus. This test helps your doctor look for abnormalities in your uterine lining. Doctor can also remove a sample of tissue for testing. To get a sample of cells from inside your uterus, you’ll likely undergo an endometrial biopsy.

NEW THERAPY:  Keytruda therapy works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. Keytruda is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells. Merck has the industry’s largest immuno-oncology clinical research program. There are currently more than 1,500 trials studying Keytruda across a wide variety of cancers and treatment settings. The Keytruda clinical program seeks to understand the role of Keytruda across cancers and the factors that may predict a patient’s likelihood of benefitting from treatment with Keytruda, including exploring several different biomarkers.                                                                                               (Source:


Amanda Harper

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Doctor David O’Malley, MD, professor and Director of Gynecological Oncology

Read the entire Q&A