LAGRANGE, Ga. – Former President Jimmy Carter’s announcement that he’s cancer- free touched off a national conversation about a new class of cancer treating drugs.
These immuno-therapy drugs to treat cancer are called Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors. Pembrolizumab or its brand name Keytruda, is in this group. Mr. Carter’s doctors say the former President will continue to receive regular doses of Keytruda, to help his body seek out any cancer cells appearing in his body.
Oncologist Wassim McHayleh at West Georgia Oncology says he’s been using this class of drugs for several months now.
“They stimulate our immune system and help uncover cancer cells for our immune system to attack them. Because usually our immune system cannot see the cancer cells, they pass in disguise,” said Dr. McHayleh.
By blocking the PD 1 protein, the immune system can see those cancer cells and attack them. Dr. McHayleh says there’s a lot of excitement about this class of drugs because it’s a game changer.
Dr. Mchayleh says the immune therapy drugs are well tolerated by patients. The drugs are being tested on a number of types of cancers. That’s what’s leading to all of the excitement over this class of drugs.
The most common side effects of Keytruda include feeling tired, cough, nausea, itching, rash, decreased appetite, shortness of breath, constipation, joint pain, and diarrhea.