AUG 12, 2020 8:50 AM PDT

Comparing Nivolumab and Pembrolizumab in the Treatment of Lung Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Jasper Cantrell

Since the 1940s, chemotherapy has been a primary treatment option for cancer. The late 20th century brought a new type of cancer treatment, immunotherapies. These immunotherapies enhance or suppress certain aspects of the immune system to assist in the termination of cancer.

Since then, there have been several immunotherapy drugs and immunotherapy technologies developed every year. Two such drugs are nivolumab and pembrolizumab. Both are FDA approved for the treatment of non-small cell carcinomas (among others) and block PD-1 (programmed cell death) mediated silencing of the immune response against cancer. This interaction allows the immune system to recognize cancer cells and target them for destruction. 

A team from the Chinese PLA General Hospital in China noticed a gap in the data comparing the two first-line treatments for non-small cell carcinomas. Some clinical trials suggest one is better than the other, but the current standard of care is to treat patients with either nivolumab or pembrolizumab. The team decided to investigate the overall response rate and progression-free survival of non-small cell carcinoma patients at their hospital and identify if one is more effective than the other.

Analyses of patient treatment data for cancer tend to be complex, as many go through second rounds of treatment, so comparisons like this one tend to be challenging. However, pembrolizumab had a slight but clear advantage in overall response rate, while nivolumab had a slight edge in progression-free survival as second-line therapy. Neither showed a clear strength over the other in most cases, however.

These results validate that the current standard treatment of choosing either nivolumab or pembrolizumab, as neither was significantly better in most areas. Many new nivolumab trials focus on its effectiveness as a combination therapy, which may point to it having a strong supportive role. Both drugs target the same molecule, so it stands to reason that they would both elicit similar effects as a stand-alone therapy.

The study concludes, “According to our comparisons, pembrolizumab and nivolumab demonstrated similar survival benefits in patients with recurrent or advanced NSCLC in various clinical settings. Therefore, our study may support the current clinical practice of choosing either drug based on patient and clinician preferences.”  

Sources: Nature Scientific Reports, Memorial Sloan Kettering

About the Author
  • Hey everyone! My name is Jasper and, considering I am pretty new here to Labroots, I figured I would introduce myself. I received my bachelor’s from the University of California at Riverside back in 2016. I started off my career a few years ago with a job at a University over in New York, before moving over into the industry. I'm happy to be writing content for Labroots, and I hope you enjoy it!
You May Also Like
APR 25, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
How Did the Chernobyl Disaster Affect Human Health?
APR 25, 2021
How Did the Chernobyl Disaster Affect Human Health?
It's been about 35 years since the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Now researchers have investigated whet ...
MAY 10, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Getting RNA-Based Medicine Past the Blood-Brain Barrier
MAY 10, 2021
Getting RNA-Based Medicine Past the Blood-Brain Barrier
RNA molecules serve several functions, one of which is to help the cell generate proteins from active genes. It also may ...
MAY 17, 2021
Cancer
Cells at the center of a tumor are more aggressive and spread faster
MAY 17, 2021
Cells at the center of a tumor are more aggressive and spread faster
New research stemming from a collaboration between researchers from the Francis Crick Institute, Royal Marsden, UCL and ...
JUN 05, 2021
Cancer
How is the new hospital price transparency rule going?
JUN 05, 2021
How is the new hospital price transparency rule going?
New findings from an analysis of hospital price transparency have been published recently in JAMA. The analysis was ...
JUN 12, 2021
Cancer
Using astronomy to image cancer tumors
JUN 12, 2021
Using astronomy to image cancer tumors
In an interdisciplinary breakthrough, a recent study published in Science describes the development of a new platform, d ...
JUN 27, 2021
Cancer
Are e-cigarettes actually helpful for smoking cessation?
JUN 27, 2021
Are e-cigarettes actually helpful for smoking cessation?
New research published in The Lancet Public Health reports on a study that looked at interventions targeting e-cigarette ...
Loading Comments...