There is hope with Cancer


I’ve been a cancer warrior for 4 years and this year marks my last year (as per my doctor), but I haven’t lose hope in trying to find cure. I think I don’t have the rarest cancer, but treating bone cancer and you don’t have a sibling really sucks because we cannot do bone marrow transplant. But as my journey goes on I have met few people who have other kinds of cancer and mostly I met people with lung cancer and they do not smoke (weird right?).

Their is a new hope for people with lung cancer and melanoma thanks to MSD in the country. They are also the leader in oncology research and development and they just introduced immunotherapy. It is the most innovative cancer treatment to date.


One type of immunotherapy called immune checkpoint inhibitors is a form of cancer treatment that prevents the interaction between the immune system’s T-cells and the tumors. When tumors and T-cells interact, a protein found in the tumor called the Programmed Death-Ligand 1 (PD-L1) deactivates T-cells so they become incapable of recognizing and destroying cancer cells. Through immunotherapy, this interaction is blocked so that T-cells can detect and ward off the cancer cells.

From L-R (Dr. Ena Lyn Ang, Dr. Gerardo Cornelio and Dr. Cesar Recto II)

In the Philippines, the anti PD-L1 immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of advanced or metastatic lung cancer and melanoma after failing first-line treatment.  In a media roundtable symposium held March 17 in Manila, Dr Gerardo Cornelio, Cancer Institute Head of St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City shared that “Pembrolizumab has the potential to become an integral part of cancer treatment. It has and will be tested across a broad spectrum of cancers.”

Dr. Gerardo Cornelio (Chairman, Oncology Dept. St. Lukes Global City)
Dr. Gerardo Cornelio (Chairman, Oncology Dept. St. Lukes Global City)

Burden of Disease to the patient and to the family

Cancer is one of the most challenging diseases and annual cases are expected to rise to 22 million within the next two decades. In 2012 alone, there were 14 million new cases reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) with 8.2 million cancer-related deaths. A significant contributor to this statistic is lung cancer, which is the top cause of cancer mortality for both sexes worldwide.

Sadly, incidence from the Philippines is not far off from the global data. According to Globocan 2012, Iung cancer is the second most common cancer in incidence and mortality among Filipino men and women.

As for melanoma, a skin cancer whose risk factors include sun exposure, fair complexion and genetics, around 300 Filipinos are affected annually. Though melanoma is not one of the most common cancers in the country, early diagnosis remains a challenge for most patients.

The good news is that for many cancers there have been significant breakthroughs – from prevention to treatment options – however, the unmet needs remain high.

Dr. Ena Lyn Ang (Medical Adviser, Oncology, MSD in the Philippines)
Dr. Ena Lyn Ang (Medical Adviser, Oncology, MSD in the Philippines)

Durable responses, lower toxicities

Clinical trials have shown immunotherapy’s efficacy in the treatment of advanced lung cancer and melanoma. According to a study published in LANCET, Pembrolizumab showed superior overall survival with less high-grade toxicity for previously treated, PD-L1-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Results of the trials showed that the most common side effects for lung cancer patients receiving Pembrolizumab were decreased appetite, fatigue, nausea, and rash.

Clinical trials also showed that Pembrolizumab has superior anticancer activity in patients with advanced melanoma who failed previous therapies.In terms of safety profile, Pembrolizumab showed a lower incidence of treatment-related adverse events compared to chemotherapy. .

Biomarkers play a key role in patient response

The expression of a certain biomarker in patients’ tumors played an important role in their response to Pembrolizumab. Biomarkers are proteins found in a patient’s tissue, blood or fluids that can help determine the outcome of a patient’s disease or response to medication. Clinical trials have shown that if a patients’ tumors express the biomarker Programmed Death Ligand-1 (PD-L1), patients are more likely to have a better response to the drug.

Dr. Cesar Recto II (Medical Affairs Director, MSD in the Philippines)
Dr. Cesar Recto II (Medical Affairs Director, MSD in the Philippines)

here is always hope in every Cancer patients

“Addressing the rising incidence of cancer is indeed a tough road to embark on.  MSD has been dedicating its resources to developing innovative oncology medicines. Pembrolizumab propelled our research efforts to understand of the role of the immune system and the PD-L1 pathway in cancer treatment” said Dr. Beaver Tamesis, President and Managing Director of MSD in the Philippines.

With this immunotherapy finally available in the Philippines, cancer patients need not equate being diagnosed with advanced or metastatic lung cancer or melanomas a death sentence. Thanks to this breakthrough in cancer medication, patients in the Philippines and abroad have a ray of hope and confidence in what used to be a hopeless case.

Globocan 2012 Accessed March 2, 2016
KEYNOTE-10 Accessed March 7, 2016
KEYNOTE-10 Accessed March 7, 2016
KEYNOTE-02 Accessed March 7, 2016
KEYNOTE-10 March 7, 2016

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