Trending News Today: Study Supports Use of Keytruda for Advanced Melanoma

Top news of the day from across the healthcare landscape.

New York health insurers have proposed an increase in premiums for individuals in the market next year, reported The Wall Street Journal. The approved rates are expected to be announced in early August, but typically the Department of Financial Services will reduce the proposed increases before approving them. The department posted averages of 17% for individuals and 12% for small groups on Wednesday for varying health plans, including those offered on the New York Health Exchange.

The results from a Merck-funded study confirmed the potential use of the immune-boosting drug Keytruda for the treatment of advanced melanoma. According to The Wall Street Journal, the clinical trial enrolled 655 advanced melanoma patients, which revealed that about 40% of people who took Keytruda during the study were still alive 3 years after initiating treatment. Older melanoma treatments only had a 3-year survival rate of 10 to 20%. The median overall survival was approximately 2 years. “Patients with advanced melanoma are often very reasonably scared about the diagnosis, based on reading old statistics about long-term survival probabilities,” said Michael Postow, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who wasn’t involved in the new survival analysis, but has been involved in other Keytruda studies. “All of these statistics are now being rewritten in a favorable way with these new drugs.”

Some scientists in the United States believe that chimeras — embryos that are part human and part animal – could potentially help save lives in people who suffer from a variety of diseases, reported NPR. A potential use for chimera embryos is to create better animal models that help study how human diseases form and how they progress. A bolder use could be to create farm animals with human organs that can be transplanted into terminally ill patients. However, many feel that it is unethical, and researchers worry the process could cross the line. “You're getting into unsettling ground that I think is damaging to our sense of humanity,” said Stuart Newman, professor of cell biology and anatomy at the New York Medical College. Currently a moratorium has been imposed by the National Institutes of Health, but a few researchers are continuing to pursue this form of research using alternative funding. “We're not trying to make a chimera just because we want to see some kind of monstrous creature,” said Pablo Ross, reproductive biologist at the University of California, Davis. “We're doing this for a biomedical purpose.”