The coronation of immunotherapy against cancer

Treatments that stimulate the patient's immune cells to attack the tumor are receiving increasing attention and relevance

André Biernath


20 August 2018, 10.30 hours

The latest research and drug approvals have strengthened a new trend in addressing cancer : Is the immunotherapy. Before it was limited to just a few tumors, it got room, even in Brazil. View the latest news on this topic for different versions of this disease:


Stomach cancer has yet another therapeutic option: the National Agency for Sanitary Surveillance (Anvisa) has released the use of pembrolizumab, from the MSD laboratory, for the tumors that reach this organ of the digestive system. The same medicine had already been approved against bladder, lung and skin diseases (melanoma).

"It is another weapon that contributes to our arsenal, and we will have more and more news about new applications of immunotherapeutics already available in the country," predicts the oncologist Antonio Carlos Buzaid, BP – Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo and Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in São Paulo.


The family of immunotherapy has a new member: Brazilians can use avelumab in the battle against metastatic marker cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of dermatological cancer. The new active principle arose from an alliance between two pharmaceutical giants: Merck and Pfizer.

"Until now, there was no standard tool against this disease," says oncologist Ricardo Blum, director of Merck in Brazil. In studies, medication increased survival by more than a year of 70 to 90% of patients – chemotherapy used so far only allowed for nine additional months in the best conditions.


Research presented at the recent congress of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) proves that merging with pembrolizumab and chemo is the best way to combat advanced lung cancer. The combination of the two therapeutic lines was able to reduce the risk of death by 51%. This dual scheme has already received approval for prescription in Brazilian countries.


The Asco conference also provided encouraging data on this skin tumor, which is often difficult to treat. Persons who started using pembrolizumab or ipilimumab (from Bristol Myers-Squibb) four or five years ago are still very good.

"A third of the most serious cases can even be cured," says Buzaid. And to think that this disease died a couple of decades ago in a few months …

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