Notably, the incidence rate of lung cancer among non-smoking Chinese females is rising comparatively faster compared with those in western countries.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death globally, causing 1.7 million fatalities a year.
A total of 781,000 patients are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, giving it the highest incidence rate among China's malignant tumours, according to the National Cancer Center (NCC).
The challenge remains to develop ways of applying these Principles in the clinical setting, whether in hospitals or GP practices in major cities, regional centres or smaller towns, to improve outcomes for people with lung cancer.
Non-squamous lung cancer patients make up about 80% of all the non-small cell lung cancers, so that amounts to over 150,000 patients in the U.S. each year, said Gomez, who was not involved in the new study.
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Other studies in lung cancer have involved another checkpoint inhibitor, nivolumab, or Opdivo (made by Bristol-Myers Squibb), which works in a similar way to pembrolizumab.
But the benefits for Opdivo and Yervoy lasted less than two months on average. It's a sign that checkpoint inhibitors like Keytruda, which unleash a patient's immune system to fight cancer, are on their way to becoming first-line therapies for cancer. They were picked at random to receive either chemotherapy plus immunotherapy, or chemotherapy plus a placebo, with two-thirds receiving the combination that included immunotherapy.
The immune therapy treatments worked for only about half of the patients in the study.
"What we look at in these trials is overall survival - how long patients live - and we look at a number called the median survival - how long 50% of patients live", said Gomez.
The estimated survival at 12 months was 69.2 percent in the group that received immunotherapy, and 49.4 percent in those who did not.