Groundbreaking clinical trial drug leaves Duarte man cancer-free

DUARTE, Calif. (KABC) -- Seven months after bladder cancer patient Maurice Ray underwent a clinical trial for the immunotherapy drug Keytruda, he is now cancer free.

"And I'm still clear," he said. "It's been clear ever since."

Unlike chemotherapy which stops and slows the growth of cancer cells, Keytruda's approach is different. The drug targets a cellular pathway that helps the body's own immune system attack the cancer.

City of Hope's Dr. Sumanta Kumar Pal said Keytruda has already been approved for use in advanced melanoma, lung and bladder cancers.

"This approval has really been groundbreaking when it comes to treating cancer," Pal said.

Until now, the FDA has approved cancer treatments based on where in the body the cancer started.

"We have now approved a drug based on a tumor's bio marker without regard to the tumor's original location," Pal said.

For many, this could be a game changer.

"What's really key about this approval is that it allows us to use a particular test to use an immunotherapy drug across the board, irrespective of cancer type," he said.

Dr. Pal said he sees a role for Keytruda in more advanced stages of breast and lung cancer, and it doesn't stop there.

"Where I'm really excited about applying this drug, based on this new indication, is in really rare cancer types which we don't have therapies to date," Pal said.

The drug has many side effects, including some that are quite serious.

Still, Maurice is grateful.

"Would I recommend the drug? I really really would," he said. "I mean, why wouldn't I? That's why I'm here. It does the job."
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.