This year was a big one for cancer treatment.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved many new cancer medications in 2015. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if these medications could be right for you.
Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in the US. According to the American Lung Association, more than 400,000 Americans alive today have been diagnosed with this type of cancer at some point. The FDA approved the following drugs to fight lung cancer this year:
- Alecensa (alecitinib) was approved by the FDA in Dec. 2015 to treat patients with advanced ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer whose disease has worsened after, or who could not tolerate treatment with, a drug called Xalkori (crizotinib).
- Portrazza (necitumumab) was approved in Nov. 2015 by the FDA to treat patients with advanced squamous non-small cell lung cancer who have not previously been treated with medication for lung cancer. This medication is intended to be used in combination with two forms of chemotherapy.
- Tagrisso (osimertinib) was approved by the FDA in Nov. 2015 to treat patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors have an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation called T790M and whose disease has gotten worse after treatment with other EGFR-blocking therapies.
Thyroid cancer cases are rising at a faster rate than any other cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The death rate for this cancer is relatively low and may go lower with the addition of new treatments. The FDA approved one new treatment for thyroid cancer in 2015:
- Lenvima (lenvatinib) was approved in Feb. 2015 by the FDA to treat patients with progressive, differentiated thyroid cancer whose disease has progressed even with radioactive iodine therapy.
As one of the most common types of cancer in the US, and with an increasing death rate, non-hodgkin lymphoma can pose a significant health threat. One new 2015 treatment may fight this cancer:
- Bendeka (bendamustine) was approved by the FDA in Dec. 2015 to treat patients with indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that has progressed on treatment containing rituximab.
According to the ACS, multiple myeloma is a fairly uncommon cancer. And it could become even less common with four newly approved treatments in 2015:
- Empliciti (elotuzumab) was approved in Nov. 2015 by the FDA to be used in combination with two other therapies to treat patients with multiple myeloma who have already taken up to three prior medications.
- Ninlaro (ixazomib) was approved by the FDA in Nov. 2015 to treat patients with multiple myeloma who have taken at least one prior medication. This drug is used in combination with two other therapies.
- Darzalex (daratumumab) was approved in Nov. 2015 by the FDA to treat patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least three prior treatments. Darzalex is the first monoclonal antibody approved for treating multiple myeloma.
- Farydak (panobinostat) was approved in Feb. 2015 for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma. Farydak is the first HDAC inhibitor approved to treat multiple myeloma. It is intended for patients who have received at least two prior therapies. It is used in combination with chemotherapy and the anti-inflammatory medication dexamethasone.
Two new medications approved in 2015 are meant to combat the deadliest form of skin cancer:
- Imlygic (talimogene laherparepvec) was approved in Oct. 2015 by the FDA to treat patients with melanoma lesions in the skin and lymph nodes. Imlygic is the first FDA-approved oncolytic virus therapy for melanoma.
- Cotellic (cobimetinib) was approved by the FDA in Nov. 2015 to be used in combination with Zelboraf (vemurafenib) to treat advanced melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body or can’t be removed by surgery, and that has a certain type of abnormal gene.
Aside from skin cancer, colorectal cancer takes third place among the most often diagnosed cancers in the US, according to the ACS. The FDA approved one new drug to fight this type of cancer in 2015:
- Lonsurf (contains two drugs: trifluridine and tipiracil) was approved in Sept. 2015 by the FDA for patients with an advanced form of colorectal cancer who are no longer responding to other therapies.
In the US, pancreatic cancer accounts for around 3 percent of cancer cases and 7 percent of cancer-related deaths, according to the ACS. One drug approved in 2015 may hold the potential to change those stats:
- Onivyde (irinotecan liposome injection) was approved by the FDA in Oct. 2015 for patients with metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas whose disease has progressed following gemcitabine-based therapy. Onivyde is intended to be used in combination with two other therapies.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, are the most common forms of cancer diagnosed in the US, according to the ACS. One treatment for basal cell carcinoma got the FDA green light in 2015:
- Odomzo (sonidegib) was approved in July 2015 by the FDA to treat patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma that has recurred following surgery or radiation therapy, or who are not candidates for surgery or radiation therapy.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma
For 2015, the ACS estimated that nearly 12,000 people would be diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in the US. In that same year, the FDA approved a drug that could fight this common cancer type:
- Yondelis (trabectedin), a type of chemotherapy, was approved in Oct. 2015 by the FDA for the treatment of specific soft tissue sarcomas (liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma) that cannot be removed by surgery or are advanced. This treatment is approved for patients who have previously received chemotherapy containing anthracycline.
One of the most discussed cancers of the year was breast cancer, which will affect around 1 in 8 women in the US in their lifetimes, according to BreastCancer.org. The FDA discussed — then approved — a new drug to fight this cancer type:
- Ibrance (palbociclib) was approved by the FDA in Feb. 2015 to treat postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer who have not yet received an endocrine-based therapy. It is used in combination with the medication letrozole.
Although its numbers are low overall in the US, neuroblastoma is the most common cancer in infants, according to the ACS. The FDA gave the go-ahead to a new drug to fight neuroblastoma in 2015:
- Unituxin (dinutuximab) was approved in March 2015 by the FDA as a first-line therapy for children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Unituxin is intended for use in combination with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy for patients who achieved at least a partial response to a prior first-line therapy.