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Innovation Observatory > Reports > Drugs > Pembrolizumab in addition to standard of care chemotherapy for extensive stage small cell lung cancer – first line

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Pembrolizumab in addition to standard of care chemotherapy for extensive stage small cell lung cancer – first line

Drugs

Cancer and Palliative Care

July 2018


Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a type of lung cancer. There are two stages of SCLC; limited (where the cancer has not yet spread to other areas of the body) and extensive (where the cancer has spread to other areas in the body). SCLC is strongly linked with smoking and the risk of developing SCLC increases with increased duration and frequency of smoking. The most common symptoms include cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, difficulty breathing and weight loss. Symptoms of lung cancer usually become apparent when the cancer has already spread, so the outlook for patients with lung cancer is usually worse than other cancers. Treatment for extensive SCLC usually includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of the two.
Pembrolizumab is a drug administered by injection which stimulates the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. Pembrolizumab targets and blocks a protein called PD‐L1 on the surface of certain immune cells called T‐cells. Blocking the PD‐L1 protein triggers the T‐cells to find and kill cancer cells. If licenced, pembrolizumab in combination with usual chemotherapy treatment for extensive SCLC could provide an additional or alternative treatment option to standard chemotherapy alone. This is important as there are limited treatment options for those with extensive SCLC and relapse rates after treatment are high.

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