Skip to Content

Keytruda

Generic Name: pembrolizumab (PEM broe LIZ ue mab)
Brand Names: Keytruda

Medically reviewed on July 4, 2018

What is Keytruda?

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Keytruda is used to treat:

  • advanced skin cancer (melanoma);

  • a certain type of non-small cell lung cancer, if your tumor tests positive for "PD-L1";

  • head and neck cancer;

  • classical Hodgkin lymphoma in adults and children;

  • a certain type of bladder and urinary tract cancer;

  • a type of cancer that laboratory testing proves to be a microsatellite instability-high or a mismatch repair deficiency solid tumor;

  • a certain type of cervical cancer if your tumor tests positive for "PD-L1"; or

  • advanced stomach cancer if your tumor tests positive for "PD-L1" and has a specific genetic marker (an abnormal "HER2/neu" gene).

Keytruda is often given when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, or cannot be surgically removed, or has come back after prior treatment.

Keytruda was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on an "accelerated" basis to treat some types of cancer. In clinical studies, tumors responded to this medicine. However, it has not been shown that Keytruda can improve symptoms or lengthen survival time.

Important Information

Keytruda can change the way your immune system works, which may cause certain side effects that can lead to serious medical problems.

Keytruda can cause side effects in many different parts of your body. Some side effects may need to be treated with other medicine, and your cancer treatments may be delayed. You will need frequent medical tests to help your doctor determine if it is safe for you to keep receiving Keytruda.

Call your doctor at once if you have: chest pain, cough, shortness of breath, severe muscle pain or weakness, diarrhea and severe stomach pain, blood in your stools, bruising or bleeding, dark urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes, a hormonal disorder (frequent headaches, feeling light-headed, rapid heartbeats, a deeper voice, increased thirst or urination, feeling cold, weight gain or loss), or a change in the amount or color of your urine.

Before taking this medicine

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Do not use Keytruda if you are pregnant. Pembrolizumab could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 4 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.

You should not breast-feed while using pembrolizumab, and for at least 4 months after your last dose.

How is Keytruda given?

Keytruda is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Your doctor will perform a blood test to make sure Keytruda is the right treatment for your condition.

You will need frequent medical tests to help your doctor determine if it is safe for you to keep receiving Keytruda. Do not miss any follow-up visits.

Keytruda dosing information

Usual Adult Dose of Keytruda for Melanoma - Metastatic:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

Usual Adult Dose of Keytruda for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression

Comments:
-When administering this drug in combination with chemotherapy, it should be administered prior to chemotherapy when given on the same day.

Usual Adult Dose of Keytruda for Head and Neck Cancer:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Usual Adult Dose for Hodgkin's Disease:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Usual Adult Dose of Keytruda for Urothelial Carcinoma:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Usual Adult Dose for Colorectal Cancer:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression

Usual Adult Dose of Keytruda for Solid Tumors:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression

Usual Adult Dose for Gastric Cancer:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Usual Adult Dose of Keytruda for Cervical Cancer:

200 mg IV over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Hodgkin's Disease:

2 years and older:
2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) IV 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Colorectal Cancer:

2 years and older:
2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) IV 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression

Usual Pediatric Dose of Keytruda for Solid Tumors:

2 years and older:
2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) IV 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

See also: Dosage Information (in more detail)

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your Keytruda injection.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while receiving Keytruda?

Pembrolizumab can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Keytruda side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Keytruda: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Pembrolizumab affects your immune system, and can cause side effects in many different parts of your body. Some side effects may need to be treated with other medicine, and your cancer treatments may be delayed or stopped altogether.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • new or worsening cough, chest pain, shortness of breath;

  • pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding;

  • severe muscle weakness, severe or ongoing muscle aches, joint pain;

  • diarrhea or increased stools, severe stomach pain, bloody or tarry stools;

  • a change in the amount or color of your urine;

  • liver problems - loss of appetite, right-sided stomach pain, easy bruising or bleeding, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • low levels of sodium in the body - confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady; or

  • signs of a hormonal disorder - frequent or unusual headaches, feeling light-headed, rapid heartbeats, hoarse or deepened voice, increased hunger or thirst, increased urination, constipation, hair loss, muscle pain, sweating, feeling cold, weight changes.

Common Keytruda side effects may include:

  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation;

  • low sodium levels, abnormal liver function tests;

  • itching or rash;

  • fever, cough, feeling short of breath;

  • pain in your muscles, bones, or joints; or

  • feeling tired.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect Keytruda?

Other drugs may interact with Keytruda, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Keytruda only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Hide