Israeli-Researched Drug Helps Jimmy Carter Beat Cancer

Jimmy Carter

Anti-cancer drug Keytruda

Anti-cancer drug Keytruda (AP/Merck & Co., Inc.)

A breakthrough Israeli-researched drug is credited for assisting former US President Jimmy Carter, a pro-Palestinian activist, in his battle with cancer.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, known for his anti-Israel activism, is crediting the cancer drug Keytruda for shrinking his tumors. The drug, in fact, was researched in Israel, with promising results.

Carter, author of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which blames Israel for the Arab-Israeli conflict and falsely accuses the Jewish state of practicing apartheid, announced Sunday that doctors found no evidence of the four lesions discovered on his brain this summer and no signs of new cancer growth.  He credits his recovery to Keytruda, a recently approved immunotherapy drug, which, in fact, was researched at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv under the leadership of Professor Jacob Schachter.

Keytruda, “which has helped 50% of patients with metastatic melanoma with minimum side effects (in September 2014), was approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Administration of America (FDA), under the accelerated procedure. Many experts suggest that this drug can lead to a real breakthrough in the treatment of cancer,” according to ResultMed, an Israeli medical services center. “The drug is considered as a treatment for lung cancerovarian cancer and others.”

Carter, 91, revealed in August that he had been diagnosed with melanoma and begun treatment, including surgery to remove part of his liver, targeted radiation therapy and doses of Keytruda to help his immune system seek out any new cancer cells.

Carter said he will continue every three weeks to receive Keytruda, a type of immunotherapy that melanoma specialists credit for improving treatment of the disease without the side effects of traditional chemotherapy drugs that can cause hair loss and other symptoms.

Doctors caution, however, that they are still learning about the long-term effect of Keytruda and similar drugs, which have only received approval for wide patient use in the last five years.

According to Dr. Douglas Johnson, a melanoma specialist at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center who is not involved with Carter’s treatment, “So many cancer treatments can be effective in the short-term, causing tumors to shrink.” Immunotherapy, however, “in at least a subset of patients, has truly long-lasting responses.”

Doctors will continue to scan Carter’s brain and the rest of his body to ensure the disease hasn’t spread, Johnson said, explaining that the scans typically are done every three months for a year or two after tests show no signs of cancer growth.

Carter and Abbas

Former US President Jimmy Carter (L) visited PA President Mahmoud Abbas last spring. Israel’s leaders refused to meet with Carter due to his anti-Israel activism. (AP)

“President Carter’s doctors certainly will continue close surveillance as they would for any patient in this situation,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. “One hopes that by using immunotherapy the body can respond to whatever happens, but cancer cells are clever and can develop workarounds for the various treatments.”

Carter has remained active during treatment, including a home-building project with Habitat for Humanity and work at The Carter Center, the human rights organization he founded after leaving the White House, which consistently refers to the “occupied Palestinian territory” as well as to the Hamas terror organization as a legitimate party to negotiations. The Center opened a field office in Ramallah in 2005, expanding in 2008 to Jerusalem and Gaza.

Last spring, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both refused a meeting with Carter during his visit to the region, citing his ongoing anti-Israel efforts.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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