High-tech drug combo shows promise for kidney cancer

FDA approves combo which N.J. patient says saved his life

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Monday, April 22, 2019
High-tech drug combo shows promise for kidney cancer
High-tech drug combo shows promise for kidney cancer. Registered Nurse Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on April 3, 2019.

NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There's new hope in the fight against kidney cancer.

A decade ago, there were no effective medications.

Now there are several, and the FDA has just approved a 2-drug combo which local researchers say improves the success even more.

The phase 3 clinical trial led by Fox Chase Cancer Center combined a popular immunotherapy with another medication to target the cancer.

After several years of testing, doctors are impressed with the results.

And so are some patients.

"My life has not changed one bit," says 65-year-old Edward Doelp of Smithville, New Jersey.

He is still living his best life biking, fishing, skiing and spending time with his grandkids.

It's not what he expected 7 years ago when a routine exam lead to a diagnosis of Stage 3 kidney cancer.

"Probably like a lot of people, when they get this news, I thought one thing only and I thought I was going to die," Doelp told Action News.

He underwent several surgeries and took a new medication that worked for a while.

However, the cancer kept coming back in different organs.

Two years ago, he enrolled in the clinical trial at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Dr. Elizabeth Plimack says it combines two treatments, at the same time.

One is an Keytruda, an immunotherapy that former President Carter received for his melanoma.

The other, Inlyta, is a targeted cancer therapy.

Each drug works, but not for everyone, and sometimes not for very long.

"So it's logical for us in the field to say if one works one way and another works another way, what if we put them together?" says Dr. Plimack, adding, "Can we help more people and can we get responses that last?"

Early studies showed out of 52 patients, 50 saw their tumors shrink.

Doelp was part of the next trial, a phase 3 study, which also showed promising results.

In fact, for him, his scans show no signs of cancer.

"I feel blessed and lucky and I am just so happy to be part of this and am ready to share it with the world," says Doelp.

The Keytruda-Inlyta combo is not a cure, and it works better for some people than it does for others.

And there is one caveat to the study: doctors don't know if they would get the same result by giving each drug one at a time, one right after the other.

But they do know this method is working.

And it gives patients another option.

The combo treatment is still awaiting FDA approval.