Merck announces new FDA approval for KEYTRUDA
Merck is pleased to announce that KEYTRUDA has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus whose tumors express PD-L1 [combined positive score (CPS) ≥10] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression after one or more prior lines of systemic therapy.
- PD-L1 diagnostic testing is requiredprior to initiating treatment with KEYTRUDA in these patients
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.
Second-line Treatment of Recurrent Locally Advanced or Metastatic Esophageal Cancer
The efficacy of KEYTRUDA was investigated in KEYNOTE-181 (NCT02564263), a multicenter, randomized, open-label, active-controlled trial that enrolled 628 patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer who progressed on or after one prior line of systemic treatment for advanced disease. Patients with human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2/neu) positive esophageal cancer were required to have received treatment with approved HER2/neu targeted therapy. All patients were required to have tumor specimens for PD-L1 testing at a central laboratory; PD-L1 status was determined using the PD-L1 immunohistochemistry (IHC) 22C3 pharmDx kit. Patients with a history of non-infectious pneumonitis that required steroids or current pneumonitis, active autoimmune disease, or a medical condition that required immunosuppression were ineligible.
Patients were randomized (1:1) to receive either KEYTRUDA 200 mg every 3 weeks or investigator’s choice of any of the following chemotherapy regimens, all given intravenously: paclitaxel 80-100 mg/m2 on Days 1, 8, and 15 of every 4-week cycle, docetaxel 75 mg/m2 every 3 weeks, or irinotecan 180 mg/m2 every 2 weeks. Randomization was stratified by tumor histology (esophageal squamous cell carcinoma [ESCC] vs. esophageal adenocarcinoma [EAC]/Siewert type I EAC of the gastroesophageal junction [GEJ]), and geographic region (Asia vs. ex-Asia). Treatment with KEYTRUDA or chemotherapy continued until unacceptable toxicity or disease progression. Patients randomized to KEYTRUDA were permitted to continue beyond the first 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 disease progression if clinically stable until the first radiographic evidence of disease progression was confirmed at least 4 weeks later with repeat imaging. Patients treated with KEYTRUDA without disease progression could be treated for up to 24 months. Assessment of tumor status was performed every 9 weeks. The major efficacy outcome measure was overall survival (OS) evaluated in the following co-primary populations: patients with ESCC, patients with tumors expressing PD-L1 CPS ≥10, and all randomized patients. Additional efficacy outcome measures were progression-free survival (PFS), objective response rate (ORR), and duration of response (DoR), according to RECIST v1.1, modified to follow a maximum of 10 target lesions and a maximum of 5 target lesions per organ, as assessed by blinded independent central review (BICR).
A total of 628 patients were enrolled and randomized to KEYTRUDA (n=314) or investigator’s treatment of choice (n=314). Of these 628 patients, 167 (27%) had ESCC that expressed PD-L1 with a CPS ≥10. Of these 167 patients, 85 patients were randomized to KEYTRUDA and 82 patients to investigator’s treatment of choice [paclitaxel (n=50), docetaxel (n=19), or irinotecan (n=13)]. The baseline characteristics of these 167 patients were: median age of 65 years (range: 33 to 80), 51% age 65 or older; 84% male; 32% White and 68% Asian; 38% had an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS) of 0 and 62% had an ECOG PS of 1. Ninety percent had M1 disease and 10% had M0 disease. Prior to enrollment, 99% of patients had received platinum-based treatment and 84% had also received treatment with a fluoropyrimidine. Thirty-three percent of patients received prior treatment with a taxane.
The observed OS hazard ratio was 0.77 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.63, 0.96) in patients with ESCC, 0.70 (95% CI: 0.52, 0.94) in patients with tumors expressing PD-L1 CPS ≥10, and 0.89 (95% CI: 0.75, 1.05) in all randomized patients. On further examination in patients whose ESCC tumors expressed PD-L1 (CPS ≥10), an improvement in OS was observed among patients randomized to KEYTRUDA as compared with chemotherapy. The table below summarizes the key efficacy measures for KEYNOTE-181 for patients with ESCC CPS ≥10.
Efficacy Results in Patients with Recurrent or Metastatic ESCC (CPS ≥10) in
200 mg every 3 weeks
|Number (%) of patients with event
|Median in months (95% CI)
||10.3 (7.0, 13.5)
||6.7 (4.8, 86)
|Hazard ratio* (95% CI)
||0.64 (0.46, 0.90)
|Number (%) of patients with event
|Median in months (95% CI)
||3.2 (2.1, 4.4)
||2.3 (2.1, 3.4)
|Hazard ratio* (95% CI)
||0.66 (0.48, 0.92)
|Objective Response Rate
|ORR (95% CI)
||22 (14, 33)
||7 (3, 15)
|Number (%) of complete responses
|Number (%) of partial responses
|Median duration of response in months
|9.3 (2.1+, 18.8+)
||7.7 (4.3, 16.8+)
|*Based on the Cox regression model stratified by geographic region (Asia vs. ex-Asia).
Third-line Treatment of Recurrent Locally Advanced or Metastatic Esophageal Cancer
The efficacy of KEYTRUDA was investigated in KEYNOTE-180 (NCT02559687), a multicenter, nonrandomized, open-label trial that enrolled 121 patients with locally advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer who progressed on or after at least 2 prior systemic treatments for advanced disease. With the exception of the number of prior lines of treatment, the eligibility criteria were similar to and the dosage regimen identical to KEYNOTE-181.
The major efficacy outcome measures were ORR and DoR according to RECIST v1.1, modified to follow a maximum of 10 target lesions and a maximum of 5 target lesions per organ, as assessed by BICR.
Among the 121 patients enrolled, 29% (n=35) had ESCC that expressed PD-L1 CPS ≥10. The baseline characteristics of these 35 patients were: median age of 65 years (range: 47 to 81), 51% age 65 or older; 71% male; 26% White and 69% Asian; 40% had an ECOG PS of 0 and 60% had an ECOG PS of 1. One hundred percent had M1 disease.
The ORR in the 35 patients with ESCC expressing PD-L1 was 20% (95% CI: 8, 37). Among the 7 responding patients, the DoR ranged from 4.2 to 25.1+ months, with 5 patients (71%) having responses of 6 months or longer and 3 patients (57%) having responses of 12 months or longer.
Recommended Dosage for Esophageal Cancer
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.
Selected Safety Information for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) injection 100 mg (continued)
- KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis, including fatal cases. Pneumonitis occurred in 3.4% (94/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 1 (0.8%), 2 (1.3%), 3 (0.9%), 4 (0.3%), and 5 (0.1%), and occurred more frequently in patients with a history of prior thoracic radiation (6.9%) compared to those without (2.9%). 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. 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, 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 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.
- The most common adverse reactions for KEYTRUDA (reported in ≥20% of patients) were fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, decreased appetite, pruritus, diarrhea, nausea, rash, pyrexia, cough, dyspnea, constipation, pain, and abdominal pain.
- 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.
Before prescribing KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), please read the Prescribing Information.
The Medication Guide also is available.