Approval of new treatment set to ease cancer burden

Keytruda cancer treatment approved
Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Health authorities approved the immunotherapy-based treatment Keytruda for more forms of cancer. It is used to treat certain cancers by working with the immune system.

This week, South African health authorities approved the immunotherapy-based treatment Keytruda for the treatment of bladder and first-line non-small cell lung carcinoma. Keytruda is used to treat certain cancers by working with the immune system. According to global pharmaceutical company MSD, immunotherapy can reduce the need for more treatments such as chemotherapy.

“When you have a better treatment, you have a smaller cancer burden and a smaller cancer burden is associated with less cancer in the body and quality of life. Almost without a doubt better treatment results in better quality of life. And this therapy is a major step forward,” says oncologist Dr Devan Moodley.

Doctors have already used the immunotherapy to treat certain types of skin and lung cancer. Keytruda was first approved in 2017 for the treatment of metastatic melanoma and advanced lung cancer.

“Patients who are on immunotherapy already have a load taken off their shoulders and I have not had a single patient come to me requesting chemotherapy as I have many patients requesting immunotherapy. And psychologically they are much better,” says Moodley.

He warns, however, that this treatment still has side effects that need to be managed. And this breakthrough doesn’t mean treatments like chemotherapy won’t be used.

“All the traditional forms of managing cancer are not dead and gone as they are still therapy options as not all patients are going to respond to immunotherapy. So, we must understand that although being a breakthrough and although you get good results not every patient is going to get good results,” says Moodley.

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Lung cancer is the most common form, followed by breast and then colorectal cancer.

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.