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Merck said Thursday that giving its drug Keytruda immediately after surgery significantly reduced the risk of relapse of kidney cancer in patients who had their tumors removed.

The new clinical trial results make Keytruda the first immunotherapy to show a benefit for this early stage of kidney cancer treatment called the adjuvant setting. Currently, the class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors are used for patients with more advanced kidney cancer — after it has recurred and spread to other parts of the body.

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