The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an immunotherapy for adults and children with classical Lymphoma Cancer who were not benefiting from existing treatments. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Cancer Society (LLS) applauds this approval as an important step forward in ultimately finding a cure for these patients.While Lymphoma Cancer is now considered one of the most curable forms of cancer – with a more than 88 percent five-year-survival rate overall – this therapy is for patients who have relapsed after being treated with current therapies, and otherwise have limited treatment options.The approved therapy, pembrolizumab (Keytruda ®), is among a class of drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors, which work by removing the brakes that stop the immune system from attacking cancer.
The body’s immune system has T-cells that patrol the body constantly looking for signs of infection or foreign cells (such as cancer cells). Certain proteins on cells indicate if it is healthy or cancerous – and if it is cancerous, the T-cell will attack it. Sometimes the T-cells are unable to recognize the cancer cells because they carry “checkpoint” proteins that act like masks, helping the Lymphoma Cancer cells blend in with normal cells.In this case, the “mask” is a protein called PD-L1, which interacts with another protein, PD-1, allowing cancer cells to evade attack from immune T-cells.