A study led by UCLA’s Dr. Edward Garon has found an immunotherapy drug to be more effective than chemotherapy in treating people with advanced lung cancer. The study also showed that the drug, pembrolizumab, was effective in a wider population of people than previously thought.

Researchers compared pembrolizumab to the chemotherapy drug docetaxel in a clinical trial involving more than 1,000 people with PD-L1–expressing non-small cell lung cancer. Patients receiving the immunotherapy lived longer than those who received chemotherapy, said Garon, the study’s senior author and a researcher at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Pembrolizumab, which is marketed under the brand name Keytruda, also was found for the first time to be effective in people with low levels of PD-L1 in their tumors.

“This treatment provides real hope of long-lasting responses while avoiding the toxicities of typical chemotherapy in a broad population of lung cancer patients,” said Garon, who also is an associate professor of hematology and oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The study was published online in the journal The Lancet.

Read the full news release.