Merck Provides Update on Phase 3 Study of KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Monotherapy in Patients with Previously Treated Recurrent or Metastatic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC)

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July 24, 2017 4:00 pm ET

Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada,
today announced that the pivotal phase 3 KEYNOTE-040 trial investigating
KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy,
in previously treated patients with recurrent or metastatic head and
neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) did not meet its pre-specified
primary endpoint of overall survival (OS) (HR, 0.82 [95% CI, 0.67-1.01];
p = 0.03 [one-sided]). The safety profile observed in KEYNOTE-040 was
consistent with that observed in previously reported studies of
KEYTRUDA; no new safety signals were identified.

In August 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved
KEYTRUDA for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic
HNSCC with disease progression on or after platinum-containing
chemotherapy. The current indication remains unchanged and clinical
trials continue, including KEYNOTE-048 (ClinicalTrials.gov,
NCT02358031), a phase 3 clinical trial of KEYTRUDA in the first-line
treatment of recurrent or metastatic HNSCC.

“We are encouraged by the positive impact that KEYTRUDA has had on many
cancer patients, including those with previously treated recurrent or
metastatic head and neck cancer, and we remain confident that KEYTRUDA
is an important therapy for this difficult-to-treat cancer,” said Roger
Dansey, M.D., senior vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology
late-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to
sharing the comprehensive data analysis from KEYNOTE-040 with the
scientific community at an upcoming medical meeting.”

The KEYTRUDA clinical development program includes more than 30 tumor
types in more than 500 clinical trials, including more than 300 trials
that combine KEYTRUDA with other cancer treatments. Specific to head and
neck cancer, Merck’s broad clinical development program encompasses
multiple registration-enabling or supportive studies investigating
KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) as monotherapy and in combination with other
cancer treatments across multiple lines of therapy.

About KEYNOTE-040

KEYNOTE-040 is a randomized, multi-center, pivotal phase 3 study
(ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02252042) investigating KEYTRUDA as a
monotherapy versus standard treatment (methotrexate, docetaxel or
cetuximab) for the treatment of recurrent or metastatic HNSCC. The
primary endpoint is OS; secondary endpoints include progression-free
survival (PFS) and overall response rate (ORR). The study, which opened
in November 2014, enrolled 495 patients to receive KEYTRUDA (200 mg
fixed dose every three weeks) or investigator-choice chemotherapy
(methotrexate [40 mg/m2 on Days 1, 8, and 15 of each 3-week
cycle], docetaxel [75 mg/m2 on Day 1 of each 3-week cycle],
or cetuximab [400 mg/m2 loading dose on Day 1 and 250 mg/m2
IV on Days 8 and 15 of Cycle 1], followed by cetuximab [250 mg/m2
on Days 1, 8, and 15 of each subsequent 3-week cycle]). Patients
enrolled in the study had been previously treated with 1-2
platinum-containing systemic regimens.

About Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer describes a number of different tumors that develop
in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth. Most head and
neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that begin in the flat,
squamous cells that make up the thin surface layer of the structures in
the head and neck. The leading modifiable risk factors for head and neck
cancer include tobacco and heavy alcohol use. Other risk factors include
infection with certain types of HPV, also called human
papillomaviruses
. Each year there are approximately 400,000 cases of
cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx, in addition to approximately
160,000 cancers of the larynx, resulting in approximately 300,000 deaths.

About KEYTRUDA

®

(pembrolizumab) Injection

KEYTRUDA is an anti-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.

Studies of KEYTRUDA – from the largest immuno-oncology program in the
industry with more than 500 trials – include a wide variety of cancers
and treatment settings. The KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) clinical program
seeks to understand factors that predict a patient’s likelihood of
benefitting from treatment with KEYTRUDA, including the exploration of
several different biomarkers across a broad range of tumors.

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-dose vial.

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) Indications and Dosing

Melanoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or
metastatic melanoma at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until
disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

Lung Cancer

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, 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, as a single agent, 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.

KEYTRUDA, in combination with pemetrexed and carboplatin, is indicated
for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic nonsquamous
NSCLC. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on
tumor response rate and progression-free survival. Continued approval
for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description
of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

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.

When administering KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy, KEYTRUDA
should be administered prior to chemotherapy when given on the same day.
See also the Prescribing Information for pemetrexed and carboplatin.

Head and Neck Cancer

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 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.

Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients
with refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL), or who have relapsed
after three or more prior lines of therapy. 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 adults with cHL, KEYTRUDA is administered at a
fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression or
unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease
progression. In pediatric patients with cHL, KEYTRUDA is administered at
a dose of 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) every three weeks until
disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in
patients without disease progression.

Urothelial Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with locally
advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma who are not eligible for
cisplatin-containing chemotherapy. This indication is approved under
accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and duration of
response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon
verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory
trials.

KEYTRUDA is also indicated for the treatment of patients with locally
advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma who have disease progression
during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy or within 12 months
of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing
chemotherapy.

In locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, KEYTRUDA
(pembrolizumab) is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three
weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24
months in patients without disease progression.

Microsatellite Instability-High (MSI-H) Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients
with unresectable or metastatic microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H)
or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR)

  • solid tumors that have progressed following prior treatment and who
    have no satisfactory alternative treatment options, or
  • colorectal cancer that has progressed following treatment with
    fluoropyrimidine, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan.

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. The safety and
effectiveness of KEYTRUDA in pediatric patients with MSI-H central
nervous system cancers have not been established.

In adult patients with MSI-H cancer, 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. In
pediatric patients with MSI-H cancer, KEYTRUDA is administered at a dose
of 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) every three weeks until disease
progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients
without disease progression.

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA

®
 (pembrolizumab)

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
(pembrolizumab) for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade
3 or 4 or recurrent Grade 2 pneumonitis.

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 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 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 hyperthyroidism.

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 (pembrolizumab) for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.

KEYTRUDA can cause other clinically important immune-mediated adverse
reactions. These immune-mediated reactions may occur in any organ
system. 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%), 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. In addition,
myelitis and myocarditis were reported in other clinical trials,
including classical Hodgkin lymphoma, and postmarketing use.

Solid organ transplant rejection has been reported in postmarketing use
of KEYTRUDA. Treatment with KEYTRUDA may increase the risk of rejection
in solid organ transplant recipients. Consider the benefit of treatment
with KEYTRUDA 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 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.

Immune-mediated complications, including fatal events, occurred in
patients who underwent allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell
transplantation (HSCT) after being treated with KEYTRUDA. Of 23 patients
with cHL who proceeded to allogeneic HSCT after treatment with KEYTRUDA
on any trial, 6 patients (26%) developed graft-versus-host-disease
(GVHD), one of which was fatal, and 2 patients (9%) developed severe
hepatic veno-occlusive disease (VOD) after reduced-intensity
conditioning, one of which was fatal. Cases of fatal hyperacute GVHD
after allogeneic HSCT have also been reported in patients with lymphoma
who received a PD-1 receptor–blocking antibody before transplantation.
These complications may occur despite intervening therapy between PD-1
blockade and allogeneic HSCT. Follow patients closely for early evidence
of transplant-related complications such as hyperacute GVHD, severe
(Grade 3 to 4) acute GVHD, steroid-requiring febrile syndrome, hepatic
VOD, and other immune-mediated adverse reactions, and intervene promptly.

Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 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.

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
(46%), decreased appetite (22%), and dyspnea (20%).

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.

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 500 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.

About Merck

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical
company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been
inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of
the world’s most challenging diseases. Through our prescription
medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we
work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver
innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to
increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs
and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of
research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that
threaten people and communities around the world – including cancer,
cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer’s disease
and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola. For more information,
visit www.merck.com

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“company”) includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of
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Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs
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respect to pipeline products that the products will receive the
necessary regulatory approvals or that they will prove to be
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The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any
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Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at 

http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_pi.pdf

 and

Patient Information/Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at 

http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_mg.pdf

.



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