An experimental Roche drug, called MPDL3280A, could be a “game changer” for patients with lung cancer that smoke or have smoked.
53 patients that have non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) had their tumors treated with the drug. Of the 53 treated, 23% of those patients saw their tumors shrink in size. The best results were found in smokers, with 26% seeing the drug react to the tumors as compared to 10% for patients that have never smoked. The drug works by blocking PD-L1, which is a defense system that tumors use to trick the immune system’s T-cells into being inactive. Blocking PD-L1 causes the T-cells to become active again and then they multiply to attack the tumor. It’s believed that the drug works better on tumors in smokers because those tumors have higher genetic mutations than those in patients that don’t smoke. The drug may also be usable on melanoma skin cancer and kidney cancer, which it has shown to have an affect on in early trials, reports Reuters.
“There is no discussion, this is really working,” Jean-Charles Soria, who led the research at the Gustave Roussy Institute in Paris, told Bloomberg. “This is the first targeted agent showing more activity in smoking patients than in never smokers.”