KEYTRUDA(R) (pembrolizumab): Expanded Indication
Merck is pleased to announce that KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, has been approved by the FDA for the first-line treatment of patients with stage III non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who are not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation, or metastatic NSCLC, and whose tumors express PD-L1 [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥1%] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) or anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) genomic tumor aberrations.
· PD-L1 diagnostic testing is required prior to initiating treatment with KEYTRUDA in these patients
KEYTRUDA, in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.
KEYTRUDA, in combination with carboplatin and either paclitaxel or paclitaxel protein-bound, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic squamous NSCLC.
KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors express PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations should have disease progression on FDA-approved therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA.
FDA=Food and Drug Administration; PD-L1=programmed death ligand 1.
Selected Safety Information for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) injection 100 mg
· Immune-mediated adverse reactions, which may be severe or fatal, can occur with KEYTRUDA, including pneumonitis, colitis, hepatitis, endocrinopathies, nephritis, severe skin reactions, solid organ transplant rejection, and complications of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, KEYTRUDA should be withheld or discontinued and corticosteroids administered if appropriate. For more information regarding immune-mediated adverse reactions, please read the additional Selected Safety Information below.
KEYNOTE-042First-line Treatment of Metastatic NSCLC as a Single Agent
The efficacy of KEYTRUDA was investigated in KEYNOTE-042 (NCT02220894) a randomized, multicenter, open-label, active-controlled trial conducted in 1274 patients with stage III NSCLC who were not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation, or metastatic NSCLC, whose tumors expressed PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%) by an immunohistochemistry assay using the PD-L1 IHC 22C3 pharmDx Kit, and who had not received prior systemic treatment for metastatic NSCLC. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations; autoimmune disease that required systemic therapy within 2 years of treatment; a medical condition that required immunosuppression; or who had received more than 30 Gy of radiation in the thoracic region within the prior 26 weeks of initiation of study were ineligible. Randomization was stratified by Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (0 vs. 1), histology (squamous vs. nonsquamous), geographic region (East Asia vs. non-East Asia), and PD-L1 expression (TPS ≥50% vs. TPS 1 to 49%). Patients were randomized (1:1) to receive KEYTRUDA 200 mg intravenously every 3 weeks or investigator’s choice of either of the following platinum-containing chemotherapy regimens:
· Pemetrexed 500 mg/m2 every 3 weeks and carboplatin area under the curve (AUC) 5 to 6 mg/mL/min every 3 weeks on Day 1 for a maximum of 6 cycles followed by optional pemetrexed 500 mg/m2 every 3 weeks for patients with nonsquamous histologies;
· Paclitaxel 200 mg/m2 every 3 weeks and carboplatin AUC 5 to 6 mg/mL/min every 3 weeks on Day 1 for a maximum of 6 cycles followed by optional pemetrexed 500 mg/m2 every 3 weeks for patients with nonsquamous histologies.
Treatment with KEYTRUDA continued until Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) v1.1 (modified to follow a maximum of 10 target lesions and a maximum of 5 target lesions per organ)-defined progression of disease, unacceptable toxicity, or a maximum of 24 months. Administration of KEYTRUDA was permitted beyond RECIST-defined disease progression if the patient was clinically stable and deriving clinical benefit as determined by the investigator. Treatment with KEYTRUDA could be reinitiated at the time of subsequent disease progression and administered for up to 12 months. Assessment of tumor status was performed every 9 weeks. The main efficacy outcome measure was overall survival (OS) in the subgroup of patients with TPS ≥50% NSCLC, the subgroup of patients with TPS ≥20% NSCLC, and the overall population with TPS ≥1% NSCLC. Additional efficacy outcome measures were progression-free survival (PFS) and overall response rate (ORR) in the subgroup of patients with TPS ≥50% NSCLC, the subgroup of patients with TPS ≥20% NSCLC, and the overall population with TPS ≥1% NSCLC as assessed by a blinded independent central radiologists’ (BICR) review according to RECIST v1.1, modified to follow a maximum of 10 target lesions and a maximum of 5 target lesions per organ.
The study population characteristics were: median age of 63 years (range: 25 to 90), 45% age 65 or older; 71% male; 64% White, 30% Asian, and 2% Black. Nineteen percent were Hispanic or Latino. Sixty-nine percent had ECOG performance status of 1; 39% with squamous and 61% with nonsquamous histology; 87% with M1 disease and 13% with Stage IIIA (2%) or Stage IIIB (11%) who were not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation per investigator assessment; and 5% with treated brain metastases at baseline. Forty-seven percent of patients had TPS ≥50% NSCLC and 53% had TPS 1 to 49% NSCLC.
The trial demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in OS for patients (PD-L1 TPS ≥50%, TPS ≥20%, TPS ≥1%) randomized to KEYTRUDA as compared with chemotherapy. The table below summarizes the efficacy results in the subgroup of patients with TPS ≥50% and in all randomized patients with TPS ≥1%.
Efficacy Results of All Randomized Patients (TPS ≥1% and TPS ≥50%) in KEYNOTE-042
Number of events (%)
Median in months (95% CI)
16.7 (13.9, 19.7)
12.1 (11.3, 13.3)
20.0 (15.4, 24.9)
12.2 (10.4, 14.2)
Hazard ratio* (95% CI)
0.81 (0.71, 0.93)
0.69 (0.56, 0.85)
Number of events (%)
Median in months (95% CI)
5.4 (4.3, 6.2)
6.5 (6.3, 7.0)
7.1 (5.9, 9.0)
6.4 (6.1, 6.9)
Hazard ratio*‡ (95% CI)
Objective Response Rate
ORR‡ (95% CI)
27% (24, 31)
27% (23, 30)
39% (33.9, 45.3)
32% (26.8, 37.6)
Partial response rate
Duration of Response
% with duration ≥12 months¶
% with duration ≥18 months¶
*Based on the stratified Cox proportional hazard model
The results of all efficacy outcome measures in the subgroup of patients with PD-L1 TPS ≥20% NSCLC were intermediate between the results of those with PD-L1 TPS ≥1% and those with PD-L1 TPS ≥50%. In a pre-specified exploratory subgroup analysis for patients with TPS 1-49% NSCLC, the median OS was 13.4 months (95% CI: 10.7, 18.2) for the pembrolizumab group and 12.1 months (95% CI: 11.0, 14.0) in the chemotherapy group, with a hazard ratio of 0.92 (95% CI: 0.77, 1.11).
Recommended Dosage for NSCLC
The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.
When administering KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy, administer KEYTRUDA prior to chemotherapy when given on the same day. Refer to the Prescribing Information for the chemotherapy agents administered in combination with KEYTRUDA for recommended dosing information, as appropriate.
Selected Safety Information for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) injection 100 mg (continued)
· KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis, including fatal cases. Pneumonitis occurred in 8.2% (65/790) of NSCLC patients receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent, including Grades 3-4 in 3.2% of patients, and occurred more frequently in patients with a history of prior thoracic radiation (17%) compared to those without (7.7%). Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis. Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 or recurrent Grade 2 pneumonitis.
· KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated colitis. Colitis occurred in 1.7% (48/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.4%), 3 (1.1%), and 4 (<0.1%). Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis.
· KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hepatitis. Hepatitis occurred in 0.7% (19/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.4%), and 4 (<0.1%). Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA.
· KEYTRUDA can cause hypophysitis, thyroid disorders, and type 1 diabetes mellitus. Hypophysitis occurred in 0.6% (17/2799) of patients, including Grade 2 (0.2%), 3 (0.3%), and 4 (<0.1%). Hypothyroidism occurred in 8.5% (237/2799) of patients, including Grade 2 (6.2%) and 3 (0.1%). Hyperthyroidism occurred in 3.4% (96/2799) of patients, including Grade 2 (0.8%) and 3 (0.1%), and thyroiditis occurred in 0.6% (16/2799) of patients, including Grade 2 (0.3%). Type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic ketoacidosis, occurred in 0.2% (6/2799) of patients.
· Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency), thyroid function (prior to and periodically during treatment), and hyperglycemia. For hypophysitis, administer corticosteroids and hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 and withhold or discontinue for Grade 3 or 4 hypophysitis. Administer hormone replacement for hypothyroidism and manage hyperthyroidism with thionamides and beta-blockers as appropriate. Withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 hyperthyroidism. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes and withhold KEYTRUDA and administer antihyperglycemics in patients with severe hyperglycemia.
Immune-Mediated Nephritis and Renal Dysfunction
· KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated nephritis. Nephritis occurred in 0.3% (9/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) nephritis. Nephritis occurred in 1.7% (7/405) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.
Immune-Mediated Skin Reactions
· Immune-mediated rashes, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) (some cases with fatal outcome), exfoliative dermatitis, and bullous pemphigoid, can occur. Monitor patients for suspected severe skin reactions and based on the severity of the adverse reaction, withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA and administer corticosteroids. For signs or symptoms of SJS or TEN, withhold KEYTRUDA and refer the patient for specialized care for assessment and treatment. If SJS or TEN is confirmed, permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.
Other Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions
· Immune-mediated adverse reactions, which may be severe or fatal, can occur in any organ system or tissue in patients receiving KEYTRUDA and may also occur after discontinuation of treatment. For suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, ensure adequate evaluation to confirm etiology or exclude other causes. Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, withhold KEYTRUDA and administer corticosteroids. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Based on limited data from clinical studies in patients whose immune-related adverse reactions could not be controlled with corticosteroid use, administration of other systemic immunosuppressants can be considered. Resume KEYTRUDA when the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or less following corticosteroid taper. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any Grade 3 immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.
· The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% (unless otherwise indicated) of 2799 patients: arthritis (1.5%), uveitis, myositis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, myasthenia gravis, vasculitis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, sarcoidosis, and encephalitis. In addition, myelitis and myocarditis were reported in other clinical trials, including classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL), and postmarketing use.
· Treatment with KEYTRUDA may increase the risk of rejection in solid organ transplant recipients. Consider the benefit of treatment vs the risk of possible organ rejection in these patients.
· KEYTRUDA can cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions, including hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis, which have been reported in 0.2% (6/2799) of patients. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions. For Grade 3 or 4 reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.
Complications of Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT)
· Immune-mediated complications, including fatal events, occurred in patients who underwent allogeneic HSCT after treatment with KEYTRUDA. Follow patients closely for early evidence of transplant-related complications such as hyperacute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), Grade 3 to 4 acute GVHD, steroid-requiring febrile syndrome, hepatic veno-occlusive disease (VOD), and other immune-mediated adverse reactions.
· In patients with a history of allogeneic HSCT, acute GVHD (including fatal GVHD) has been reported after treatment with KEYTRUDA. Patients who experienced GVHD after their transplant procedure may be at increased risk for GVHD after KEYTRUDA. Consider the benefit of KEYTRUDA vs the risk of GVHD in these patients.
Increased Mortality in Patients With Multiple Myeloma
· In trials in patients with multiple myeloma, the addition of KEYTRUDA to a thalidomide analogue plus dexamethasone resulted in increased mortality. Treatment of these patients with a programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) or PD-L1 blocking antibody in this combination is not recommended outside of controlled trials.
· Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Advise women of this potential risk. In females of reproductive potential, verify pregnancy status prior to initiating KEYTRUDA and advise them to use effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months after the last dose.
· In KEYNOTE-189, when KEYTRUDA was administered with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy in metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 20% of 405 patients. The most common adverse reactions resulting in permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA were pneumonitis (3%) and acute kidney injury (2%). The most common adverse reactions (≥20%) with KEYTRUDA were nausea (56%), fatigue (56%), constipation (35%), diarrhea (31%), decreased appetite (28%), rash (25%), vomiting (24%), cough (21%), dyspnea (21%), and pyrexia (20%).
· In KEYNOTE-407, when KEYTRUDA was administered with carboplatin and either paclitaxel or paclitaxel protein-bound in metastatic squamous NSCLC, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 15% of 101 patients. The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in at least 2% of patients were febrile neutropenia, pneumonia, and urinary tract infection. Adverse reactions observed in KEYNOTE-407 were similar to those observed in KEYNOTE-189 with the exception that increased incidences of alopecia (47% vs 36%) and peripheral neuropathy (31% vs 25%) were observed in the KEYTRUDA and chemotherapy arm compared to the placebo and chemotherapy arm in KEYNOTE-407.
· In KEYNOTE-042, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 19% of 636 patients; the most common were pneumonitis (3%), death due to unknown cause (1.6%), and pneumonia (1.4%). The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in at least 2% of patients were pneumonia (7%), pneumonitis (3.9%), pulmonary embolism (2.4%), and pleural effusion (2.2%). The most common adverse reaction (≥20%) was fatigue (25%).
· In KEYNOTE-010, KEYTRUDA monotherapy was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 8% of 682 patients with metastatic NSCLC; the most common was pneumonitis (1.8%). The most common adverse reactions (≥20%) were decreased appetite (25%), fatigue (25%), dyspnea (23%), and nausea (20%).
· Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in breastfed children, advise women not to breastfeed during treatment and for 4 months after the final dose.