Dr. Suman Rao Co-authors Lung Cancer Study for New England Journal of Medicine

December 1, 2016

suman-raoImmunotherapy Medicine Confirmed Better Than Chemo in Some Cancers

Baltimore—(December 1, 2016)— MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center oncologist Suman Rao, MD, focused a national spotlight on the fight against lung cancer with her extensive contributions in a lung cancer study that led her to co-author a New England Journal of Medicine report published last month. The study confirms immunotherapy produces better results than chemotherapy in first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, and won Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the immunotherapy medicine, Keytruda last month.

Immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy, uses substances to destroy a protective mechanism on cancers cells, and then allows the body's natural defenses to fight them. Keytruda targets the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) receptor. While it’s been in use for other cancers such as melanoma and bladder cancer, chemotherapy has been the standard of care for metastatic lung cancer

Dr. Rao enrolled the most patient data in the trial, which gleaned 305 patients from 16 countries. In the study, patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer and the PD-1 expression on at least 50% of tumor cells, did not have a progression of their cancer, and had fewer adverse reactions than patients who were treated with chemotherapy.

“Where we are seeing progress with using immunotherapy,” said Dr. Rao,“is in difficult to treat cancers, such as small cell lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma. Immunotherapy improved survival, compared to traditional chemotherapy, in patients with non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors express high levels of PD-L1. This is a huge leap for those of us on the journey with patients whose diseases have been most challenging. There are more studies underway, and much more work to do, but this is a very exciting finding.”


About MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center is a not-for-profit 378-bed community teaching hospital located in the White Marsh section of eastern Baltimore County, Maryland. MedStar Franklin Square provides many medical and healthcare services, including a broad range of healthcare specialties, advanced technologies and treatments not traditionally found at community hospitals. The hospital is ranked third in admissions among all Maryland hospitals and is first in Emergency Department visits with more than 108,000 visits annually. MedStar Franklin Square is accredited by the Joint Commission and certified as a Primary Stroke Center and has earned some of the nation’s most prestigious quality awards including Magnet Designation for excellence in nursing, the Excellence Award for Quality Improvement from the Delmarva Foundation and inclusion in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospital specialty ranking for four consecutive years. With more than 3,300 employees, MedStar Franklin Square is one of the largest employers in Baltimore County. Visit medstarfranklin.org for more information.

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