MSD: Immunotherapy Drug now in the Philippines!

1:17:00 PM

Depression, guilt, even grief are probably normal feelings if someone's coping with cancer. Diagnosis will not only affect yourself but the whole family. Trust it will be very difficult to understand once you find out...

A week ago, I learned the Global Burden of Cancer where there are about 14.1 Million NEW cases per year and in terms of Mortality, 8.2 Billion die per year then there are more than 32 Million patients living with Cancer shared by Dr. Ena Lyn R. Ang, MD

From the Cancer Epidemiology presented to us prior lunch, types of Lung Cancer classication is based upon the miscroscopic appearance of the tumour cells - 20% small cell then 80% non-small cell lung cancer: large cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and squamous cell. Worldwide Incidence of Melanoma was briefly discussed being a type of skin cancer and now responsible for most skin cancer deaths; In Asia, Acral Lenginous Melanoma is the common type seen in deeply pigmented skin (Source: J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009 Oct; 2 (10): 34-36)  

The spark of hope has never been brighter for Filipino patients with advanced stages of lung cancer and Melanoma. MSD, in the Philippines, a leader in oncology research and development just introduced immunotherapy as one the most innovative cancer treatment methods, to date.

One type of immunotherapy called immune checkpoint inhibitors that prevents the interaction between the immune system's T-cells and the tumors. When tumors and T-cells interact, a protein found in the tumor called the Programmed Death-Ligand 1 (PD-L1) deactivates T-cells so they become incapable of recognizing and destroying cancer cells. Through immunotherapy, this interaction is blocked so that T-cells can detect and ward off the cells. (Columbia University Medical Center, 2 March 2016)

In the Philippines, the anti PD-L1 immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab received approval from the Food and Drug Admnistration (FDA) for the treatment of advanced or metastatic lung cancer and melanoma after failing first-line treatment. In a media roundtable symposium held March 17 in Manila, Dr. Gerardo Cornelio, Cancer Institute Head of St. Luke's Medical Center Global City shared that "Pembrolizumab has the potential to become an integral part of cancer treatment. It has and will be tested across a broad spectrum of cancers."  

As for melanoma whose risk factors include sun exposure, fair complexion and genetics, around 300 Filipinos are affected annually. Though melanoma is not one of the most common cancers in the country, early diagnosis remains a challenge for most patients. Good news is that for many cancers, there have been significant breakthrough - from prevention to treatment options! 

"Addressing the rising incidence of cancer is indeed a tough road to embark on. MSD has been dedicating its resources to developing oncology medicines. Pembrolizumab propelled our research efforts to understand of the role of the immune system and the PD-L1 pathway in cancer treatment," said Dr. Beaver Tamesis, President and Managing Director of MSD in the Philippines. 

With this immunotherapy finally available in the Philippines, cancer patients need not equate being diagnosed with advanced or metastatic lung caner or melanomas a death sentence. Thanks to this breakthrough in cancer medication, patients in the Philippines and abroad have a ray of hope and confidence in what used to be a hopeless case. 

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