173 posts in the category “Research”

2 immunotherapy treatments in the news: Imfinzi and Keytruda update

Posted May 10th, 2018 by

Two immunotherapy treatments — Imfinzi (durvalumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) — have made headlines recently in relation to lung cancer treatment. What’s the latest? Here’s an update.

Expanded FDA approval for Imfinzi

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Imfinzi as a bladder cancer treatment in 2017. Imfinzi is marketed by AstraZeneca.

In February 2018, the FDA approved Imfinzi for some lung cancer cases — specifically for patients with “stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer [NSCLC] who are not able to be treated with surgery to remove their tumor, and whose cancer has not gotten worse after they received chemotherapy along with radiation (chemoradiation),” the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains.

A few more details on Imfinzi, according to the ACS:

  • The goal of treatment with this drug is to keep the cancer from getting worse for as long as possible (researchers call this “progression-free survival”).
  • The new approval for Imfinzi was based on a randomized clinical trial of 713 people, which found that those who received the drug had an average progression-free survival of 16.8 months compared to 5.6 months for those in the trial who did not receive it.
  • Imfinzi is a “checkpoint inhibitor” drug that targets and blocks the PD-L1 protein to help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells (learn more about PD-L1 here, and read about possible Imfinzi side effects here)

The new approval for Imfinzi applies to very specific cases of NSCLC, but Reuters says it represents “a chance to intervene earlier in lung cancer,” since other approved immunotherapy treatments are tackling advanced or metastatic cancer.

Positive research on Keytruda + chemotherapy

Keytruda is another “checkpoint inhibitor” immunotherapy treatment that’s already on the market but making big headlines, thanks to new clinical trial findings.

Research published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that Keytruda is useful in combination with standard chemotherapy in the majority of patients diagnosed with an advanced form of lung cancer — specifically those with previously untreated metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without EGFR or ALK gene mutations.

“Doctors already prescribe Keytruda to patients if a lab test shows that they are likely to respond to this drug,” NPR reports. “But Merck, the company that makes it, wanted to find out how the drug works in patients who aren’t obvious candidates as determined by that blood test… It turns out that Keytruda, in combination with standard chemotherapy, also works in patients even if they have a low score on the lab test, which measures something called the tumor proportion score for PD-L1.”

The phase 2 clinical trial involved 616 patients with advanced lung cancer from medical centers in 16 countries (check out this PatientsLikeMe guide to clinical trials and drug approvals).

“The findings, medical experts say, should change the way doctors treat lung cancer: Patients with this form of the disease should receive immunotherapy as early as possible,” The New York Times reports, along with more details on the research.

Check out PatientsLikeMe member’s treatment evaluations of Keytruda (pembrolizumab) here (become a member for access to more information). And see our previous round-up on lung cancer research and treatments (with many studies still ongoing).

Full disclosure: PatientsLikeMe is currently partnering with AstraZeneca on research projects. We’ve also partnered with Merck in the past. The article above is not sponsored – this topic has made headlines lately and we like to share relevant health news to help keep our communities informed. Questions about our partnerships? At PatientsLikeMe, we’re all about transparency so check out who we’ve worked with here.

Looking for more information on patients’ experiences and treatments for lung cancer? Join PatientsLikeMe today to connect with 9,000+ members with lung cancer.

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Are we really more likely to cry when watching movies on planes? New study de-mystifies the urban legend

Posted April 3rd, 2018 by

The Oscars have been awarded and spring travel is in full swing, which got us thinking about the urban legend that you’re more likely to cry watching a movie on a plane than on the ground. Is it just a myth or is there more to it?

While celebrities, polls and pop culture have covered the phenomenon — also jokingly known as altitude-adjusted lachrymosity syndrome (AALS) — no true scientific research has studied it. Until now.

An idea takes flight: The study set up

Paul Wicks, VP of Innovation at PatientsLikeMe, studies emotional lability, or uncontrolled crying and laughing, in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or motor neuron disease). But he’s also a frequent flier, and on a trip back from an ALS conference found himself a little weepy while watching Selma on a flight.

“Although I was studying this uncontrollable emotional expression in people with a medical condition, I thought maybe lots of healthy people might have uncontrollable, unexplained outburst of crying in certain settings, too.”

Enter the first scientific study on AALS. Wicks surveyed 1,084 people living in the United States who had watched a movie on a plane in the last 12 months. Participants answered questions about the films they viewed, whether they had consumed alcohol, if they’d watched any movies on the ground since their flight, and more.

The verdict: Frequent fliers aren’t always frequent criers

The study debunked the myth that we cry more on planes (25% of respondents reported crying while watching movies in the air vs. 22 % on the ground, a non-significant difference). Wicks was surprised by the results, but even more interested in some of the other unexpected takeaways…

Top takeaways

The most likely contributors to crying aren’t altitude or alcohol – it’s more about specific movies people are likely to choose on planes. Gender is also a factor, but Wicks says that could be because men are less likely to self-report crying at films. Here’s what else can increase your chances of tearing up:

A lot of it has to do with movie genre, too…

And if you pick these ones in particular, we hope you have tissues handy.

But in the end, it can be really personal, says Wicks:

“One mother reported that they took their daughters to see Wonder Woman and she cried not at the plot but to see the representation of a strong female protagonist for her daughters, and the feeling that her children were growing up with a better social culture than she did.”

Check out the full study results here, where you can also watch a video recap with Paul Wicks.

What’s your experience with crying on planes? What do you make of these study results? Share in the comments below.

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