New treatments for advanced non-small cell lung cancer

Increasing the chance to live longer

non-small cell lung cancer

The FDA has approved Opdivo® (Nivolumab) and Keytruda® (Pembrolizumab) to treat patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Both medicines stimulate a patient’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells.


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with an estimated 224,210 new diagnoses in 2014. The most common type of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer or NSCLC, affects seven out of eight lung cancer patients.

In October 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Opdivo® (Nivolumab) and Keytruda® (Pembrolizumab) to treat patients with advanced, or metastatic, NSCLC. Both medicines stimulate a patient’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells.

At the University of Michigan’s Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Clinic, we are using both drugs in appropriate patients as standard of care. We also have other similar immunotherapy drugs in a variety of clinical trials.

For NSCLC, Opdivo® and Keytruda® are used when:

  • your cancer has spread and,
  • your tests positive for PD-L1(programmed-death ligand) and,
  • you have tried chemotherapy that contains platinum, and it did not work and,
  • if your tumor has an abnormal EGFR(epidermal growth factor receptor) or ALK gene, and you have also tried an EGFR or ALK inhibitor medicine.

It is not known if Opdivo® or Keytruda® are safe and effective in children less than 18 years of age.

What should patients know about these latest drugs?

How will you receive Opdivo® or Keytruda®?

  • Your doctor will decide how many intravenous treatments you receive, and how often.
  • You will have blood tests to check for side effects.

Most common side effects for Opdivo® include:

  • feeling tired
  • pain in muscles, bones and joints
  • decreased appetite
  • cough
  • nausea and constipation
  • shortness of breath

Most common side effects for Keytruda® include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Decreased appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea

Serious side effects may not be experienced by every patient. Both new treatments can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in many areas of your body including the lung, colon, liver, kidneys and hormone-producing glands.

Talk with your doctor about further treatment for NSCLC and learn if these new options are right for you.

Take the next step:

Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.

2013 annette 1The Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.