The FDA has approved one drug and expanded the use of another for patients with metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has progressed after treatment with other agents. Both drugs are checkpoint inhibitors that mobilize the immune system’s cancer-fighting ability (http://1.usa.gov/1JXCpmJ, http://1.usa.gov/1hgkNfa).
Pembrolizumab, marketed as Keytruda, and nivolumab, marketed as Opdivo, are monoclonal antibodies that block the programmed death-1 receptor on T cells from binding with the programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) on tumor cells. As a result, the immune system mounts a more robust response against cancerous tumors.
Voelker R. Immunotherapy for Lung Cancer. JAMA. 2015;314(19):2015. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.15195