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New cancer drugs boost immune system

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s successful treatment of cancer has proved that there has been a significant improvement in the treatment of this disease.

In their successful battle against Carter’s cancer, doctors used pembrolizumab, also known as keytruda, a new class of drugs that fights tumours by boosting the body’s immune system. It is among the eight new melanoma drugs approved since 2011.

According to Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, the drug causes the cancer to shrink or stop growing. About one-third of the patients who take keytruda showed marked improvement.

It is difficult to treat advanced cases of cancer like Carter’s which has spread to the brain because only a few drugs can get past the “blood-brain barrier,” which is a system that protects the brain from bacteria and infections. However, keytruda is effective because it revs up immune cells that can infiltrate the brain and thereby shrinks the tumours indirectly.

The price of the new drugs at around $100,000 a year is, however, a matter of concern.

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