From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

September 1, 2021

In its relentless pursuit of the newest and most innovative cancer treatments, OHC has recently played a role in three new FDA approved therapies. On August 10, the FDA approved Lenvima (lenvatnib) plus Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for adults with advanced renal cell carcinoma. The approval is based on the results of the phase 3 CLEAR/KEYNOTE-581 trial in which OHC had eight of the 1,069 enrolled patients worldwide.

Lenvima targets certain proteins on cancer cells that cause them to grow and multiply. Keytruda, an immunotherapy, increases the immune system’s ability to detect and fight tumor cells. The phase 3 CLEAR/KEYNOTE-581 study showed that the combination of these drugs had an overall response rate of 71% and significantly reduced disease progression or death in renal cell carcinoma patients by 61%.

In the U.S., there are approximately 65,000 new cases of renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer, each year. “The incidence and mortality rates of kidney cancer are increasing,” said OHC’s David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH, medical oncologist, hematologist and principal investigator for OHC’s CLEAR/KEYNOTE-581 trial. “With the majority of renal cell carcinoma cases, symptoms don’t present until later on during the course of the disease when the tumor is already advanced and the cancer may have spread.”

That was the case with OHC patient Kathy Swenson who was diagnosed with advanced renal cell carcinoma in 2017 and was referred to OHC’s Patrick J. Ward, MD, PhD, medical oncologist. “Dr. Ward told me my cancer was slow-growing and that I probably had it for a couple of years,” said Kathy. Dr. Ward recommended that Kathy enroll in the CLEAR/KEYNOTE-581 trial. To read OHC’s December 2019 story on Kathy, follow this link.

When Dr. Ward recommended the trial, Kathy did not have much hesitancy, but she wanted a second opinion. “Quality of life is very important to me, and I had a very active job,” noted Kathy. “I knew my situation was bad, but the trial gave me hope. I think it’s important to get a second opinion from another expert and educate yourself before joining a trial.” When a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic confirmed that the trial, which was not offered at the Cleveland Clinic, was best for Kathy, she knew she would enroll at OHC and was in the best hands possible.

Kathy receives her infusion every three weeks and reports minimal side effects. She has bloodwork every three weeks and scans every 12 weeks. They continue to show that her condition is stable and only small masses remain. “If you met me, you’d never think I was sick,” said Kathy. “I know my body’s limitations, but I just feel better knowing the treatment offers me hope.”

Clinical trials advance the field of oncology,” said Dr. Ward, who also serves as Co-Director of OHC’s Cancer Research Department. “Lenvima plus Keytruda offers a very promising treatment option to those newly diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma as it’s demonstrated to improve survival outcomes. Without the willingness of patients, like Kathy, to participate in these studies, these new therapies would never be approved.”

Kathy, who has retired from her work as the Recreation Superintendent for the city of Blue Ash, remains active and exercises in her hot tub under the guidance of a trainer. When asked what it feels like to know she was part of a trial for an FDA approved treatment, Kathy replied, “It’s awesome! When I joined, I felt I could do something that might possibly help people. I wonder how many people will be able to try this treatment and have success.”

As part of the nation’s largest research network specializing in oncology clinical trials, OHC continues to lead the way with cancer research. Through its dedication to conquering cancer, OHC’s clinical trials give patients early access to the most advanced therapies. For more information on emerging treatments and clinical trials or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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