Merck announces new FDA approval for KEYTRUDA
Merck announces new FDA approval for KEYTRUDA
Merck is pleased to announce that KEYTRUDA, in combination with axitinib, has been approved by the FDA for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
- PD-L1 diagnostic testing is not required prior 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.
First-line Treatment of Advanced RCC in Combination With Axitinib
The efficacy of KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib was investigated in KEYNOTE-426 (NCT02853331), a randomized, multicenter, open-label trial conducted in 861 patients who had not received systemic therapy for advanced RCC. Patients were enrolled regardless of PD-L1 tumor expression status. Patients with active autoimmune disease requiring systemic immunosuppression within the last 2 years were ineligible. Randomization was stratified by International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium (IMDC) risk categories (favorable versus intermediate versus poor) and geographic region (North America versus Western Europe versus “Rest of the World”).
Patients were randomized (1:1) to one of the following treatment arms:
- KEYTRUDA 200 mg intravenously every 3 weeks up to 24 months in combination with axitinib 5 mg orally, twice daily. Patients who tolerated axitinib 5 mg twice daily for 2 consecutive cycles (6 weeks) could increase to 7 mg and then subsequently to 10 mg twice daily. Axitinib could be interrupted or reduced to 3 mg twice daily and subsequently to 2 mg twice daily to manage toxicity.
- Sunitinib 50 mg orally, once daily for 4 weeks and then off treatment for 2 weeks.
Treatment with KEYTRUDA and axitinib continued until Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) v1.1-defined progression of disease or unacceptable toxicity. Administration of KEYTRUDA and axitinib was permitted beyond RECIST-defined disease progression if the patient was clinically stable and considered to be deriving clinical benefit by the investigator. Assessment of tumor status was performed at baseline, after randomization at Week 12, then every 6 weeks thereafter until Week 54, and then every 12 weeks thereafter.
The study population characteristics were: median age of 62 years (range: 26 to 90); 38% age 65 or older; 73% male; 79% White and 16% Asian; 19% and 80% of patients had a baseline Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) of 70 to 80 and 90 to 100, respectively; and patient distribution by IMDC risk categories was 31% favorable, 56% intermediate and 13% poor.
The main efficacy outcome measures were overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) as assessed by blinded independent central review (BICR) according to modified RECIST v1.1. Additional efficacy outcome measures included overall response rate (ORR), as assessed by BICR. A statistically significant improvement in OS was demonstrated at the pre-specified interim analysis in patients randomized to KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib compared with sunitinib. The trial also demonstrated statistically significant improvement in PFS and ORR. The table below summarizes the efficacy results for KEYNOTE-426. The median follow-up time was 12.8 months (range 0.1 to 22.0 months). Consistent results were observed across pre-specified subgroups, IMDC risk categories and PD-L1 tumor expression status.
Efficacy Results in KEYNOTE-426
|Number of patients with event (%)
|Median in months (95% CI)
||NR (NR, NR)
||NR (NR, NR)
|Hazard ratio* (95% CI)
||0.53 (0.38, 0.74)
|12-month OS rate
||90% (86, 92)
||78% (74, 82)
|Number of patients with event (%)
|Median in months (95% CI)
||15.1 (12.6, 17.7)
||11.1 (8.7, 12.5)
|Hazard ratio* (95% CI)
||0.69 (0.57, 0.84)
|Overall confirmed response rate
|59% (54, 64)
||36% (31, 40)
|*Based on the stratified Cox proportional hazard model
†Based on stratified log-rank test
‡p-Value (one-sided) is compared with the allocated alpha of 0.0001 for this interim analysis (with 39% of the planned number of events for final analysis).
§p-Value (one-sided) is compared with the allocated alpha of 0.0013 for this interim analysis (with 81% of the planned number of events for final analysis).
¶Based on Miettinen and Nurminen method stratified by IMDC risk group and geographic region
Recommended Dosage for RCC
The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks in combination with 5 mg axitinib orally twice daily until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or for KEYTRUDA, up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. When axitinib is used in combination with KEYTRUDA, dose escalation of axitinib above the initial 5 mg dose may be considered at intervals of six weeks or longer. See also the Prescribing Information for recommended axitinib dosing information.
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.
Immune-Mediated Hepatitis, or Hepatotoxicity (in Combination With Axitinib)
- 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.
Hepatotoxicity (in Combination With Axitinib)
- KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib can cause hepatic toxicity with higher than expected frequencies of Grades 3 and 4 alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) elevations compared to KEYTRUDA alone. Grades 3 and 4 increased ALT and AST were seen in 20% and 13% of patients, respectively. Monitor liver enzymes before initiation of and periodically throughout treatment. Consider more frequent monitoring of liver enzymes as compared to when the drugs are used in monotherapy. For elevated liver enzymes, interrupt KEYTRUDA and axitinib, and consider administering corticosteroids as needed.
- 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 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-426, when KEYTRUDA was administered in combination with axitinib, fatal adverse reactions occurred in 3.3% of 429 patients. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 40% of patients, the most frequent (≥1%) were hepatotoxicity (7%), diarrhea (4.2%), acute kidney injury (2.3%), dehydration (1%), and pneumonitis (1%). Permanent discontinuation due to an adverse reaction occurred in 31% of patients; KEYTRUDA only (13%), axitinib only (13%), and the combination (8%); the most common were hepatotoxicity (13%), diarrhea/colitis (1.9%), acute kidney injury (1.6%), and cerebrovascular accident (1.2%). The most common adverse reactions (≥20%) were diarrhea (56%), fatigue/asthenia (52%), hypertension (48%), hepatotoxicity (39%), hypothyroidism (35%), decreased appetite (30%), palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia (28%), nausea (28%), stomatitis/mucosal inflammation (27%), dysphonia (25%), rash (25%), cough (21%), and constipation (21%).
- 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.