For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a cancer drug based only on molecular characteristics of the patient’s tumor – and not on the organ site. The presence of the molecular alteration, known as microsatellite instability (MSI), is assessed in eligible pancreatic cancer patients through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s state-of-the art Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service.
A PanCAN Patient Services Case Manager can help you determine if you or a loved one is eligible for Know Your Tumor. Molecular profiling provides detailed information about the genetic and protein changes that are present in each patient’s tumor – and these findings can help inform treatment decisions.
“We’ve often said that pancreatic cancer patients shouldn’t be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA, chief science officer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Sometimes molecular profiling can reveal characteristics in a patient’s pancreatic tumor that are more frequently seen in a colorectal tumor – or a tumor of the lung or breast – and there may be drugs that work particularly well in tumors with these characteristics.”
The drug approved by the FDA is called Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and is produced by Merck. It functions by blocking the cancer cells’ ability to avoid an immune attack. Tumors with high MSI have been shown to be particularly susceptible to treatment with Keytruda.
“High MSI status can be found in pancreatic tumors, though it’s not common,” Matrisian said. “Patients who undergo molecular profiling get a glimpse into the molecular workings of their tumor, discovering clues that could allow them the opportunity to be treated with a drug, like Keytruda for high-MSI tumors, that is more likely to result in a positive response.
“We applaud the FDA and Merck for approving Keytruda for any solid tumor that displays high MSI. We are hopeful that this type of approval will pave the way for future molecularly targeted cancer drugs that aren’t specific to the organ site of the tumor.”
To learn more about Know Your Tumor, molecular profiling or any topic related to pancreatic cancer treatment or diagnosis, contact PanCAN Patient Services. We are here to help.