ATLANTA, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Doctors are treating former president Jimmy Carter‘s metastatic melanoma with a combination of the latest immunotherapy drug and advanced radiation.
The drug, Pembrolizumab — or Keytruda in the United States — was just approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year and is the first of its kind. Carter will receive it through an IV four times at three-week intervals, according to a statement from the Carter Center.
Keytruda is used with patients whose cancer has metastasized or is too difficult to remove through surgery. Instead of relying on external methods, the drug mobilizes a patient’s immune system to actively fight and kill cancer cells.
The ability of a cancerous tumor to metastasize and spread throughout the body is enabled by proteins that ward off the body’s autoimmune response, limiting its ability to quash the growth in its infancy. Keytruda blocks one of those proteins, PD-1, and empowers the immune system enough to stand up to the diseased cells.
Carter will also undergo focused radiation to treat the tumors found in his brain. Focused radiation is also known as stereotactic radiation and allows doctors to target tumors with greater accuracy.
Carter spoke at a press conference regarding his cancer on Thursday, Aug. 20. He said an MRI scan revealed a 2.5 cubic centimeter tumor located in his liver, which was then removed.
Later, four cancerous tumors were located in Carter’s brain, each about 2 millimeters in size. After learning of the brain tumors, Carter said he “was surprisingly at ease.”
“I have had a wonderful life, I’ve had thousands of friends and I’ve had an exciting and adventurous and gratifying existence, so I was surprisingly at ease — much more so than my wife was… it’s in the hands of God and my worship, and I’ll be prepared for anything that comes,” he said.