FDA Grants Priority Review to Keytruda as Part of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Regimen

Excerpt:

“The FDA granted priority review to a supplemental biologics license application that seeks approval of pembrolizumab for use in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with newly diagnosed metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer.

“Pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck) is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2.”

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TLR9 Agonist CMP-001-Pembrolizumab Combination Shows Early Efficacy for Metastatic Melanoma Resistant to Anti-PD-1

Excerpt:

A combination of CMP-001, an intratumoral Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) agonist, and pembrolizumab (Keytruda), tested in patients with metastatic melanoma resistant to PD-1 checkpoint inhibition, was well tolerated and had clinical activity according to preliminary data presented from the ongoing phase Ib clinical trial at the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, April 14-18, in Chicago.

” ‘Checkpoint inhibition is quickly becoming a key tool for oncologists to treat cancer,’ said Mohammed Milhem, MBBS, clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. ‘However, there are many  that either initially respond to checkpoint inhibition and then progress, or never respond to this therapy to begin with. Finding safe and effective therapies for these patients is critical.’ ”

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Pembrolizumab Reduced the Risk for Recurrence of Stage 3 Melanoma

Excerpt:

“A one-year course of 18 doses of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) significantly reduced the risk of recurrence for patients with stage 3 melanoma who were at high risk of recurrence after surgery, according to data from the KEYNOTE-054/EORTC 1325-MG phase III clinical trial, presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, April 14–18.

“This study is being published simultaneously in The New England Journal of Medicine.”

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Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) Plus Pemetrexed (ALIMTA®) and Platinum Chemotherapy Reduced the Risk of Death by Half Compared with Chemotherapy Alone as First-Line Treatment for Advanced Nonsquamous NSCLC in Phase 3 KEYNOTE-189 Study

Excerpt:

“Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced results from KEYNOTE-189, a pivotal Phase 3 trial evaluating KEYTRUDA ® , Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with pemetrexed (ALIMTA®) and cisplatin or carboplatin for the first-line treatment of metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Findings showed that the KEYTRUDA-pemetrexed-platinum chemotherapy combination significantly improved overall survival (OS), reducing the risk of death by half compared with chemotherapy alone (HR=0.49 [95% CI, 0.38-0.64]; p<0.00001). In pre-specified exploratory analyses, an OS benefit was observed regardless of PD-L1 expression in the three PD-L1 categories that were evaluated, including: patients whose tumors were negative for PD-L1 (HR=0.59 [95% CI, 0.38-0.92]); patients whose tumors had PD-L1 tumor proportion scores (TPS) of 1-49 percent (HR=0.55 [95% CI, 0.34-0.90]); and patients who had a TPS of greater than or equal to 50 percent (HR=0.42 [95% CI, 0.26-0.68]). The addition of KEYTRUDA to pemetrexed plus platinum chemotherapy also achieved a significant improvement in progression-free survival (PFS), with a reduction in the risk of progression or death of nearly half for patients in the KEYTRUDA combination arm, compared with chemotherapy alone (HR=0.52 [95% CI, 0.43-0.64]; p<0.00001). A PFS improvement in the KEYTRUDA combination group was observed in patients whose tumors were negative for PD-L1 (HR=0.75 [95% CI, 0.53-1.05]); patients with a TPS of 1-49 percent (HR=0.55 [95% CI, 0.37-0.81]); and patients with a TPS greater than or equal to 50 percent (HR=0.36 [95% CI, 0.25-0.52]). These results are being presented today in a plenary session at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2018 (Abstract #CT075), with simultaneous publication in The New England Journal of Medicine.”

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Predicting If an Immune Checkpoint Drug Will Work


Drugs that activate the immune system to attack cancer in a process known as immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) are a focus of intense investigation. A number of them are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for various cancers; namely, the anti-CTLA4 antibody ipilimumab (Yervoy), two anti-PD-1 antibodies: pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo), and three anti-PD-L1 drugs: atezolizumab (Tecentriq), avelumab (Bavencio) and durvalumab (Imfinzi). These ICB drugs have the potential to induce durable cancer regressions, but the majority of cancer patients just do not respond to them at all.

Biomarkers, signature molecules in the blood or other tissue, can sometimes be used to predict a patient’s response to a given treatment. But no reliable biomarkers exist for ICB, and this is a serious concern. Patients who may really benefit from ICB could be overlooked, and patients who are not likely to respond may receive useless (and very expensive) ICB treatment.

Most potential response predictors that have already been identified are not yet useful for one or all of the following reasons: they are not extensively validated, their significance is still uncertain and may differ from one cancer (or even one patient) to another, or they are technically challenging for routine use. These markers are addressed below. Continue reading…


Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) Monotherapy Met Primary Endpoint in Phase 3 KEYNOTE-042 Study, Significantly Improving OS as First-Line Therapy in Locally Advanced or Metastatic NSCLC Patients Expressing PD-L1 in at Least 1 Percent of Tumor Cells

Excerpt:

“Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced that the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-042 trial evaluating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, as monotherapy for the first-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC, including nonsquamous or squamous histologies) met its primary endpoint of overall survival (OS). An interim analysis conducted by the independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) demonstrated that treatment with KEYTRUDA resulted in significantly longer OS than platinum-based chemotherapy (carboplatin plus paclitaxel or carboplatin plus pemetrexed) in patients with a PD-L1 tumor proportion score (TPS) of ≥1 percent. As part of a pre-specified analysis plan, OS was sequentially tested and was significantly improved in patients with a TPS of ≥50 percent, with a TPS of ≥20 percent and then in the entire study population with a TPS of ≥1 percent. The safety profile of KEYTRUDA in this trial was consistent with that observed in previously reported monotherapy studies involving patients with advanced NSCLC.”

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Incyte and Merck Provide Update on Phase 3 Study of Epacadostat in Combination with Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) in Patients with Unresectable or Metastatic Melanoma

Excerpt:

“Incyte Corporation (Nasdaq:INCY) and Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced that an external Data Monitoring Committee (eDMC) review of the pivotal Phase 3 ECHO-301/KEYNOTE-252 study results evaluating Incyte’s epacadostat in combination with Merck’s KEYTRUDA® in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma determined that the study did not meet the primary endpoint of improving progression-free survival in the overall population compared to KEYTRUDA monotherapy.  The study’s second primary endpoint of overall survival also is not expected to reach statistical significance. Based on these results, and at the recommendation of the eDMC, the study will be stopped. The safety profile observed in ECHO-301/KEYNOTE-252 was consistent with that observed in previously reported studies of epacadostat in combination with KEYTRUDA.”

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No Benefit of PD-1/PD-L1 Inhibitors in Metastatic EGFR Mutated Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“Immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In patients progressing on first-line therapy, immunotherapy with the PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors pembrolizumab, nivolumab, and atezolizumab has become standard second-line therapy. While these agents are associated with durable responses and long-term improvements in overall survival (OS), only a small proportion of patients respond to treatment. Relatively little is known about the factors that predispose patients to response on checkpoint inhibitors, and there is an unmet need for improved patient selection criteria.”

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Ramalingam Highlights Immunotherapy Advances in NSCLC

Excerpt:

“Recently reported updates from the KEYNOTE-189 and IMpower150 trials demonstrated the powerful impact of adding immunotherapy to treatment regimens for patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“In the phase III KEYNOTE-189 study, the combination of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) with chemotherapy in the frontline setting improved survival in patients with nonsquamous NSCLC. In this trial, which is the confirmatory trial for the FDA approval of pembrolizumab plus carboplatin/pemetrexed, patients received frontline pembrolizumab or placebo combined with pemetrexed and either cisplatin or carboplatin. The study met the primary endpoints of improved overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), though full data have yet to be presented.”

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