FDA Grants Priority Review to Merck’s Supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) Seeking Approval for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) for New Indication in Microsatellite Instability-High Cancer
November 28, 2016 7:00 am ET
KENILWORTH, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada,
today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
accepted for review the supplemental Biologics License Application
(sBLA) for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), the company’s anti-PD-1
therapy, for the treatment of previously treated patients with advanced
microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) cancer. The FDA granted Priority
Review with a PDUFA, or target action date, of March 8, 2017; the sBLA
will be reviewed under the FDA’s Accelerated Approval program based on
tumor response rate and durability of response. The FDA recently granted
Breakthrough Therapy Designation to KEYTRUDA for unresectable or
metastatic MSI-H non-colorectal cancer, and previously granted it for
the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic MSI-H
“The FDA’s acceptance of this application represents an important
advance for the field of immuno-oncology and is further evidence of
Merck’s commitment to identifying patients most likely to benefit from
KEYTRUDA treatment,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck
Research Laboratories. “We believe that patients whose tumors harbor DNA
repair defects may be especially responsive to KEYTRUDA, and we look
forward to working with the FDA to bring this important new therapy to
these very challenging treatment situations.”
The application, which is seeking approval for KEYTRUDA at a fixed dose
of 200 mg every three weeks, is based on data from five uncontrolled,
open-label, multi-cohort, multi-site phase I/II trials investigating the
activity of KEYTRUDA in MSI-H cancer.
About Microsatellite Instability
Microsatellites are short repetitive sequences of DNA found throughout
the genome. Microsatellite instability – or MSI – is caused by a
deficiency in the cell’s ability to repair errors in the DNA sequence
(mismatch repair) that occur during cell division leading to a
characteristic change in microsatellite repeats. MSI-H is already an
established biomarker in certain types of cancer. The presence of MSI is
generally determined by an analytical test that compares the length of
DNA from several microsatellite markers in tumor and normal cells, and
produces a hallmark profile that distinguishes MSI-high, MSI-low, or
microsatellite-stable tumor samples.
KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the
ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor
cells. KEYTRUDA 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.
KEYTRUDA is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes
every three weeks for the approved indications. KEYTRUDA for injection
is supplied in a 100 mg single use vial.
KEYTRUDA Indications and Dosing
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or
metastatic melanoma at a dose of 2 mg/kg every three weeks until disease
progression or unacceptable toxicity.
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with
metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have high
PD-L1 expression [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥50%] as determined by an
FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.
KEYTRUDA is also 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
In metastatic NSCLC, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg
every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or
up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.
Head and Neck Cancer
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or
metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) with disease
progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. This
indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor
response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this
indication may be contingent upon verification and description of
clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. In HNSCC, KEYTRUDA is
administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease
progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients
without disease progression.
Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis, including fatal cases.
Pneumonitis occurred in 94 (3.4%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA,
including Grade 1 (0.8%), 2 (1.3%), 3 (0.9%), 4 (0.3%), and 5 (0.1%)
pneumonitis, 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 48
(1.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.4%), 3
(1.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) colitis. 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 19
(0.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3
(0.4%), and 4 (<0.1%) hepatitis. 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 (pembrolizumab) can cause hypophysitis. Hypophysitis occurred
in 17 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2
(0.2%), 3 (0.3%), and 4 (<0.1%) hypophysitis. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency). Administer corticosteroids and hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3 or 4 hypophysitis.
KEYTRUDA can cause thyroid disorders, including hyperthyroidism,
hypothyroidism, and thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism occurred in 96 (3.4%)
of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.8%) and 3
(0.1%) hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurred in 237 (8.5%) of 2799
patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (6.2%) and 3 (0.1%)
hypothyroidism. The incidence of new or worsening hypothyroidism was
higher in patients with HNSCC occurring in 28 (15%) of 192 patients with
HNSCC, including Grade 3 (0.5%) hypothyroidism. Thyroiditis occurred in
16 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.3%)
thyroiditis. Monitor patients for changes in thyroid function (at the
start of treatment, periodically during treatment, and as indicated
based on clinical evaluation) and for clinical signs and symptoms of
thyroid disorders. Administer replacement hormones for hypothyroidism
and manage hyperthyroidism with thionamides and beta-blockers as
appropriate. Withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4
KEYTRUDA can cause type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic
ketoacidosis, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients.
Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of
diabetes. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes, and withhold KEYTRUDA
and administer antihyperglycemics in patients with severe hyperglycemia.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated nephritis. Nephritis occurred in 9
(0.3%) of 2799 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 KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.
KEYTRUDA can cause other clinically important immune-mediated adverse
reactions. 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 (pembrolizumab) 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
The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions
occurred in less than 1% (unless otherwise indicated) of 2799 patients:
arthritis (1.5%), exfoliative dermatitis, bullous pemphigoid, rash
(1.4%), uveitis, myositis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, myasthenia gravis,
vasculitis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, and partial seizures arising
in a patient with inflammatory foci in brain parenchyma.
KEYTRUDA can cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related
reactions, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients.
Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions,
including rigors, chills, wheezing, pruritus, flushing, rash,
hypotension, hypoxemia, and fever. For Grade 3 or 4 reactions, stop
infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.
Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA can cause fetal harm when
administered to a pregnant woman. If used during pregnancy, or if the
patient becomes pregnant during treatment, apprise the patient of the
potential hazard to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to
use highly effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months
after the last dose of KEYTRUDA.
In KEYNOTE-006, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 9%
of 555 patients with advanced melanoma; adverse reactions leading to
discontinuation in more than one patient were colitis (1.4%), autoimmune
hepatitis (0.7%), allergic reaction (0.4%), polyneuropathy (0.4%), and
cardiac failure (0.4%). Adverse reactions leading to interruption of
KEYTRUDA occurred in 21% of patients; the most common (≥1%) was diarrhea
(2.5%). The most common adverse reactions with KEYTRUDA vs ipilimumab
were fatigue (28% vs 28%), diarrhea (26% with KEYTRUDA), rash (24% vs
23%), and nausea (21% with KEYTRUDA). Corresponding incidence rates are
listed for ipilimumab only for those adverse reactions that occurred at
the same or lower rate than with KEYTRUDA.
In KEYNOTE-002, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in
12% of 357 patients with advanced melanoma; the most common (≥1%) were
general physical health deterioration (1%), asthenia (1%), dyspnea (1%),
pneumonitis (1%), and generalized edema (1%). Adverse reactions leading
to interruption of KEYTRUDA occurred in 14% of patients; the most common
(≥1%) were dyspnea (1%), diarrhea (1%), and maculopapular rash (1%). The
most common adverse reactions with KEYTRUDA vs chemotherapy were fatigue
(43% with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab)), pruritus (28% vs 8%), rash (24% vs
8%), constipation (22% vs 20%), nausea (22% with KEYTRUDA), diarrhea
(20% vs 20%), and decreased appetite (20% with KEYTRUDA). Corresponding
incidence rates are listed for chemotherapy only for those adverse
reactions that occurred at the same or lower rate than with KEYTRUDA.
KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 8% of 682 patients
with metastatic NSCLC. The most common adverse event resulting in
permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA was pneumonitis (1.8%). Adverse
reactions leading to interruption of KEYTRUDA occurred in 23% of
patients; the most common (≥1%) were diarrhea (1%), fatigue (1.3%),
pneumonia (1%), liver enzyme elevation (1.2%), decreased appetite
(1.3%), and pneumonitis (1%). The most common adverse reactions
(occurring in at least 20% of patients and at a higher incidence than
with docetaxel) were decreased appetite (25% vs 23%), dyspnea (23% vs
20%), and nausea (20% vs 18%).
KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 17% of 192
patients with HNSCC. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 45% of
patients. The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in at
least 2% of patients were pneumonia, dyspnea, confusional state,
vomiting, pleural effusion, and respiratory failure. The most common
adverse reactions (reported in at least 20% of patients) were fatigue,
decreased appetite, and dyspnea. Adverse reactions occurring in patients
with HNSCC were generally similar to those occurring in patients with
melanoma or NSCLC, with the exception of increased incidences of facial
edema (10% all Grades; 2.1% Grades 3 or 4) and new or worsening
It is not known whether KEYTRUDA is excreted in human milk. Because many
drugs are excreted in human milk, instruct women to discontinue nursing
during treatment with KEYTRUDA and for 4 months after the final dose.
Safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA have not been established in
Our Focus on Cancer
Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology
medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck, helping people
fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer
medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in
immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from
lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer.
As part of our focus on cancer, Merck is committed to exploring the
potential of immuno-oncology with one of the fastest-growing development
programs in the industry. We are currently executing an expansive
research program that includes more than 360 clinical trials evaluating
our anti-PD-1 therapy across more than 30 tumor types. We also continue
to strengthen our immuno-oncology portfolio through strategic
acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising
immunotherapeutic candidates with the potential to improve the treatment
of advanced cancers.
For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.
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For more information, visit www.merck.com
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Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at
Patient Information/Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at
Pamela Eisele, 267-305-3558
Kim Hamilton, 908-740-1863
Teri Loxam, 908-740-1986
Amy Klug, 908-740-1898