Adjuvant Treatment With Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Demonstrates Statistically Significant & Clinically Meaningful Improvement in Distant Metastasis-Free Survival in Patients With Resected Stage IIB or IIC Melanoma in Phase 3 KEYNOTE-716 Trial
KEYNOTE-716 is the first Phase 3 trial with an anti-PD-1/L1 to significantly improve distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) and recurrence-free survival (RFS) for these patients
Based on KEYNOTE-716, KEYTRUDA received US FDA approval and a positive EU CHMP opinion for the adjuvant treatment of patients aged 12 and older with completely resected stage IIB and IIC melanoma
RAHWAY, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--$MRK #MRK--Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) results from the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-716 trial investigating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, versus placebo as adjuvant therapy for patients with resected stage IIB or IIC melanoma. With a median follow-up of 27.4 months, KEYTRUDA demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in DMFS versus placebo (HR=0.64 [95% CI, 0.47-0.88]; p=0.0029). Median DMFS was not reached in either arm. These late-breaking data are being presented for the first time today at 10:45 a.m. ET during an oral abstract session at the 2022 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting (abstract #LBA9500).
Additionally, at the median 27.4-month follow-up, KEYTRUDA continued to show a reduction in the risk of recurrence versus placebo (HR=0.64 [95% CI, 0.50-0.84]). According to Kaplan-Meier estimates, 81.2% of patients in the KEYTRUDA arm were recurrence-free at two years compared to 72.8% of patients in the placebo arm. A prespecified exploratory analysis of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) from KEYNOTE-716 will also be presented at ASCO 2022 on Monday, June 6 (abstract #9581), showing HRQoL was similar between the KEYTRUDA and placebo arms based on EORTC Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30 or EQ-5D-5L VAS scores.
“Patients with stage IIB and IIC melanoma are at risk of seeing their cancer return and spread to distant sites,” said Dr. Georgina Long, co-medical director, Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), and chair, Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research at MIA and Royal North Shore Hospital, University of Sydney. “The latest results from KEYNOTE-716 show the potential of pembrolizumab to help reduce distant recurrence in patients with resected stage IIB and IIC melanoma, and further highlight the important role of adjuvant therapy for these patients.”
In the study, the safety profile of KEYTRUDA was consistent with previously reported studies in patients with solid tumors, and no new safety signals were observed at the time of DMFS analysis. Treatment-related adverse events Grade 3 or higher were observed in 17% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA versus 5% of patients receiving placebo. Immune-mediated events and infusion reactions were higher with KEYTRUDA (38% vs 9%, respectively).
“Based on survival data, we know that patients with stage IIB and IIC melanoma have similar five-year outcomes as those with stage IIIB melanoma,” said Dr. Scot Ebbinghaus, vice president, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “In KEYNOTE-716, treatment with KEYTRUDA after surgery improved both distant metastasis-free survival and recurrence-free survival compared to placebo in patients with stage IIB or IIC melanoma. These data are encouraging for the melanoma community and add to results from six positive pivotal studies for KEYTRUDA-based regimens in earlier stages of cancer.”
In addition to KEYNOTE-716, the five other pivotal trials evaluating a KEYTRUDA-based regimen in patients with earlier stages of cancer met their primary endpoint(s). These trials include: KEYNOTE-091 in stage IB (≥4 centimeters) to IIIA non-small cell lung cancer; KEYNOTE-054 in stage III melanoma; KEYNOTE-564 in renal cell carcinoma; KEYNOTE-522 in triple-negative breast cancer; and KEYNOTE-057 in Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)-unresponsive, high-risk, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.
Based on RFS results from KEYNOTE-716, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved KEYTRUDA for the adjuvant treatment of adult and pediatric (12 years and older) patients with stage IIB or IIC melanoma following complete resection in December 2021. With the approval, KEYTRUDA became the first anti-PD-1 adjuvant treatment option for patients (12 years and older) across completely resected stage IIB, IIC and III melanoma. The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use adopted a positive opinion based on KEYNOTE-716 in May 2022, and the data will be shared with additional health authorities globally.
KEYNOTE-716 study design and additional data
KEYNOTE-716 (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03553836) is a randomized, double-blind Phase 3 trial that enrolled 976 adult and pediatric patients (12 years and older) with resected stage IIB or IIC melanoma. Following complete surgical resection, patients were randomized to KEYTRUDA 200 mg for adult patients and 2 mg/kg (up to 200 mg) for pediatric patients or placebo every three weeks for approximately one year until disease recurrence or unacceptable toxicity. The primary endpoint was RFS, and secondary endpoints included DMFS and overall survival. Overall survival will continue to be followed for upcoming analyses.
As of data cutoff for the third interim analysis (Jan. 4, 2022), the median study follow-up was 27.4 months. Distant metastasis-free survival was defined as time from randomization to the first diagnosis of distant metastasis. In the KEYTRUDA arm, 12.9% (n=63/487) of patients experienced a DMFS event versus 19.4% (n=95/489) of patients in the placebo arm. The estimated two-year DMFS rates were 88.1% with KEYTRUDA versus 82.2% with placebo.
As previously announced, the study met the primary endpoint of RFS at the first interim analysis (HR=0.65 [95% CI, 0.46-0.92]; p=0.00658). At the third interim analysis, 19.5% (n=95/487) of patients who received KEYTRUDA experienced an RFS event versus 28.4% (n=139/489) of patients who received placebo. At two years, the estimated RFS rates were 81.2% with KEYTRUDA versus 72.8% with placebo.
About Merck’s research in melanoma
Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells. The rates of melanoma have been rising over the past few decades, with nearly 325,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2020. In the U.S., skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed, and melanoma accounts for a large majority of skin cancer deaths. It is estimated there will be nearly 100,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed and almost 8,000 deaths resulting from the disease in the U.S. in 2022.
The recurrence rates for resected melanoma are estimated to be 32-46% for patients with stage IIB and stage IIC disease and 39-74% for patients with stage III disease. The five-year survival rates (AJCC eighth edition) are estimated to be 87% for stage IIB, 82% for stage IIC, 93% for stage IIIA, 83% for stage IIIB, 69% for stage IIIC and 32% for stage IIID.
Merck is committed to delivering meaningful advances for patients with melanoma with KEYTRUDA and to continuing research in skin cancers through a broad clinical development program across investigational and approved medicines. KEYTRUDA has been established as an important treatment option for the adjuvant treatment of adult patients with resected stage III melanoma and is approved in over 90 countries based on the results from EORTC1325/KEYNOTE-054. KEYTRUDA is also approved worldwide for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.
About Merck’s early-stage cancer clinical program
Finding cancer at an earlier stage may give patients a greater chance of long-term survival. Many cancers are considered most treatable and potentially curable in their earliest stage of disease. Building on the strong understanding of the role of KEYTRUDA in later-stage cancers, Merck is studying KEYTRUDA in earlier disease states, with approximately 20 ongoing registrational studies across multiple types of cancer.
About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) injection, 100 mg
KEYTRUDA is an anti-programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) therapy that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells.
Merck has the industry’s largest immuno-oncology clinical research program. There are currently more than 1,700 trials studying KEYTRUDA across a wide variety of cancers and treatment settings. The KEYTRUDA clinical program seeks to understand the role of KEYTRUDA across cancers and the factors that may predict a patient's likelihood of benefitting from treatment with KEYTRUDA, including exploring several different biomarkers.
Selected KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Indications in the U.S.
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of adult and pediatric (12 years and older) patients with stage IIB, IIC, or III melanoma following complete resection.
See additional selected KEYTRUDA indications in the U.S. after the Selected Important Safety Information.
Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA
Severe and Fatal Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions
KEYTRUDA is a monoclonal antibody that belongs to a class of drugs that bind to either the PD-1 or the PD-L1, blocking the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway, thereby removing inhibition of the immune response, potentially breaking peripheral tolerance and inducing immune-mediated adverse reactions. Immune-mediated adverse reactions, which may be severe or fatal, can occur in any organ system or tissue, can affect more than one body system simultaneously, and can occur at any time after starting treatment or after discontinuation of treatment. Important immune-mediated adverse reactions listed here may not include all possible severe and fatal immune-mediated adverse reactions.
Monitor patients closely for symptoms and signs that may be clinical manifestations of underlying immune-mediated adverse reactions. Early identification and management are essential to ensure safe use of anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Evaluate liver enzymes, creatinine, and thyroid function at baseline and periodically during treatment. For patients with TNBC treated with KEYTRUDA in the neoadjuvant setting, monitor blood cortisol at baseline, prior to surgery, and as clinically indicated. In cases of suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, initiate appropriate workup to exclude alternative etiologies, including infection. Institute medical management promptly, including specialty consultation as appropriate.
Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity of the immune-mediated adverse reaction. In general, if KEYTRUDA requires interruption or discontinuation, administer systemic corticosteroid therapy (1 to 2 mg/kg/day prednisone or equivalent) until improvement to Grade 1 or less. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Consider administration of other systemic immunosuppressants in patients whose adverse reactions are not controlled with corticosteroid therapy.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis. The incidence is higher in patients who have received prior thoracic radiation. Immune-mediated pneumonitis occurred in 3.4% (94/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including fatal (0.1%), Grade 4 (0.3%), Grade 3 (0.9%), and Grade 2 (1.3%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 67% (63/94) of patients. Pneumonitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 1.3% (36) and withholding in 0.9% (26) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, 23% had recurrence. Pneumonitis resolved in 59% of the 94 patients.
Pneumonitis occurred in 8% (31/389) of adult patients with cHL receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent, including Grades 3-4 in 2.3% of patients. Patients received high-dose corticosteroids for a median duration of 10 days (range: 2 days to 53 months). Pneumonitis rates were similar in patients with and without prior thoracic radiation. Pneumonitis led to discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 5.4% (21) of patients. Of the patients who developed pneumonitis, 42% interrupted KEYTRUDA, 68% discontinued KEYTRUDA, and 77% had resolution.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated colitis, which may present with diarrhea. Cytomegalovirus infection/reactivation has been reported in patients with corticosteroid-refractory immune-mediated colitis. In cases of corticosteroid-refractory colitis, consider repeating infectious workup to exclude alternative etiologies. Immune-mediated colitis occurred in 1.7% (48/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (1.1%), and Grade 2 (0.4%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 69% (33/48); additional immunosuppressant therapy was required in 4.2% of patients. Colitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.5% (15) and withholding in 0.5% (13) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, 23% had recurrence. Colitis resolved in 85% of the 48 patients.
Hepatotoxicity and Immune-Mediated Hepatitis
KEYTRUDA as a Single Agent
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hepatitis. Immune-mediated hepatitis occurred in 0.7% (19/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.4%), and Grade 2 (0.1%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 68% (13/19) of patients; additional immunosuppressant therapy was required in 11% of patients. Hepatitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.2% (6) and withholding in 0.3% (9) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, none had recurrence. Hepatitis resolved in 79% of the 19 patients.
KEYTRUDA With Axitinib
KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib can cause hepatic toxicity. Monitor liver enzymes before initiation of and periodically throughout treatment. Consider monitoring more frequently as compared to when the drugs are administered as single agents. For elevated liver enzymes, interrupt KEYTRUDA and axitinib, and consider administering corticosteroids as needed. With the combination of KEYTRUDA and axitinib, Grades 3 and 4 increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) (20%) and increased aspartate aminotransferase (AST) (13%) were seen at a higher frequency compared to KEYTRUDA alone. Fifty-nine percent of the patients with increased ALT received systemic corticosteroids. In patients with ALT ≥3 times upper limit of normal (ULN) (Grades 2-4, n=116), ALT resolved to Grades 0-1 in 94%. Among the 92 patients who were rechallenged with either KEYTRUDA (n=3) or axitinib (n=34) administered as a single agent or with both (n=55), recurrence of ALT ≥3 times ULN was observed in 1 patient receiving KEYTRUDA, 16 patients receiving axitinib, and 24 patients receiving both. All patients with a recurrence of ALT ≥3 ULN subsequently recovered from the event.
KEYTRUDA can cause primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency. For Grade 2 or higher, initiate symptomatic treatment, including hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Adrenal insufficiency occurred in 0.8% (22/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.3%), and Grade 2 (0.3%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 77% (17/22) of patients; of these, the majority remained on systemic corticosteroids. Adrenal insufficiency led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (1) and withholding in 0.3% (8) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hypophysitis. Hypophysitis can present with acute symptoms associated with mass effect such as headache, photophobia, or visual field defects. Hypophysitis can cause hypopituitarism. Initiate hormone replacement as indicated. Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Hypophysitis occurred in 0.6% (17/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.3%), and Grade 2 (0.2%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 94% (16/17) of patients; of these, the majority remained on systemic corticosteroids. Hypophysitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.1% (4) and withholding in 0.3% (7) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated thyroid disorders. Thyroiditis can present with or without endocrinopathy. Hypothyroidism can follow hyperthyroidism. Initiate hormone replacement for hypothyroidism or institute medical management of hyperthyroidism as clinically indicated. Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Thyroiditis occurred in 0.6% (16/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.3%). None discontinued, but KEYTRUDA was withheld in <0.1% (1) of patients.
Hyperthyroidism occurred in 3.4% (96/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 3 (0.1%) and Grade 2 (0.8%). It led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (2) and withholding in 0.3% (7) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement. Hypothyroidism occurred in 8% (237/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 3 (0.1%) and Grade 2 (6.2%). It led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (1) and withholding in 0.5% (14) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement. The majority of patients with hypothyroidism required long-term thyroid hormone replacement. The incidence of new or worsening hypothyroidism was higher in 1185 patients with HNSCC, occurring in 16% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent or in combination with platinum and FU, including Grade 3 (0.3%) hypothyroidism. The incidence of new or worsening hypothyroidism was higher in 389 adult patients with cHL (17%) receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent, including Grade 1 (6.2%) and Grade 2 (10.8%) hypothyroidism.
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (DM), Which Can Present With Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Initiate treatment with insulin as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Type 1 DM occurred in 0.2% (6/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA. It led to permanent discontinuation in <0.1% (1) and withholding of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (1) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement.
Immune-Mediated Nephritis With Renal Dysfunction
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated nephritis. Immune-mediated nephritis occurred in 0.3% (9/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.1%), and Grade 2 (0.1%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 89% (8/9) of patients. Nephritis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.1% (3) and withholding in 0.1% (3) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, none had recurrence. Nephritis resolved in 56% of the 9 patients.
Immune-Mediated Dermatologic Adverse Reactions
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated rash or dermatitis. Exfoliative dermatitis, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms, and toxic epidermal necrolysis, has occurred with anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Topical emollients and/or topical corticosteroids may be adequate to treat mild to moderate nonexfoliative rashes. Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Immune-mediated dermatologic adverse reactions occurred in 1.4% (38/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 3 (1%) and Grade 2 (0.1%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 40% (15/38) of patients. These reactions led to permanent discontinuation in 0.1% (2) and withholding of KEYTRUDA in 0.6% (16) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, 6% had recurrence. The reactions resolved in 79% of the 38 patients.
Other Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions
The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred at an incidence of <1% (unless otherwise noted) in patients who received KEYTRUDA or were reported with the use of other anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Severe or fatal cases have been reported for some of these adverse reactions. Cardiac/Vascular: Myocarditis, pericarditis, vasculitis; Nervous System: Meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and demyelination, myasthenic syndrome/myasthenia gravis (including exacerbation), Guillain-Barré syndrome, nerve paresis, autoimmune neuropathy; Ocular: Uveitis, iritis and other ocular inflammatory toxicities can occur. Some cases can be associated with retinal detachment. Various grades of visual impairment, including blindness, can occur. If uveitis occurs in combination with other immune-mediated adverse reactions, consider a Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome, as this may require treatment with systemic steroids to reduce the risk of permanent vision loss; Gastrointestinal: Pancreatitis, to include increases in serum amylase and lipase levels, gastritis, duodenitis; Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue: Myositis/polymyositis, rhabdomyolysis (and associated sequelae, including renal failure), arthritis (1.5%), polymyalgia rheumatica; Endocrine: Hypoparathyroidism; Hematologic/Immune: Hemolytic anemia, aplastic anemia, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, histiocytic necrotizing lymphadenitis (Kikuchi lymphadenitis), sarcoidosis, immune thrombocytopenic purpura, solid organ transplant rejection.
KEYTRUDA can cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions, including hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis, which have been reported in 0.2% of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions. Interrupt or slow the rate of infusion for Grade 1 or Grade 2 reactions. For Grade 3 or Grade 4 reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.
Complications of Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT)
Fatal and other serious complications can occur in patients who receive allogeneic HSCT before or after anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Transplant-related complications include hyperacute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), acute and chronic GVHD, hepatic veno-occlusive disease after reduced intensity conditioning, and steroid-requiring febrile syndrome (without an identified infectious cause).
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