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FDA Approves Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for Previously Treated Patients with Recurrent or Metastatic Cervical Cancer Whose Tumors Express PD-L1

KENILWORTH, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE) June 12, 2018 --Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Keytruda, the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy, for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer with disease progression on or after chemotherapy whose tumors express PD-L1 [Combined Positive Score (CPS) ≥1] as determined by an FDA-approved test. This indication is approved under the FDA’s accelerated approval regulations 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.

“Keytruda is now the first anti-PD-1 therapy approved for the treatment of advanced cervical cancer, providing an important new second-line option for certain patients with this disease,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president and head of global clinical development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories. “This approval also marks the first indication for Keytruda in a gynecologic cancer and reflects our ongoing commitment to bring forward innovative treatment options across a broad range of cancers, including cancers that disproportionately affect women.”

Immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred with Keytruda, including pneumonitis, colitis, hepatitis, endocrinopathies, nephritis, severe skin reactions, and solid organ transplant rejection. Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, Keytruda should be withheld or discontinued and corticosteroids administered if appropriate. Keytruda can also cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions; 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. Female patients of reproductive potential should be advised of the potential hazard to a fetus.

"Even with the many advances observed across gynecologic cancers, new treatment options have been lacking for previously treated patients with advanced cervical cancer,” said Dr. Bradley Monk, oncologist with Arizona Oncology, medical director of US Oncology Research Gynecology Program and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Arizona’s College of Medicine and Creighton University School of Medicine. “The approval of Keytruda in this indication is important news – and as an oncologist, it is exciting to see a much needed option made available to these patients.”

“This approval is welcome news for patients, who now have another option in their fight against this serious disease,” said Tamika Felder, founder and chief visionary officer, Cervivor.

Data Supporting the Approval

The efficacy of Keytruda was investigated in 98 patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer enrolled in a single cohort (Cohort E) in study KEYNOTE-158, a multi-center, non-randomized, open-label, multi-cohort trial. The trial excluded patients with autoimmune disease or a medical condition that required immunosuppression. Patients were treated with Keytruda intravenously at a dose of 200 mg every three weeks until unacceptable toxicity or documented disease progression. Patients with initial radiographic disease progression could receive additional doses of treatment during confirmation of progression unless disease progression was symptomatic, was rapidly progressive, required urgent intervention, or occurred with a decline in performance status. Patients without disease progression could be treated for up to 24 months. Assessment of tumor status was performed every nine weeks for the first 12 months, and every 12 weeks thereafter. The major efficacy outcome measures were objective response rate (ORR) according to Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors (RECIST) 1.1, as assessed by blinded independent central review, and duration of response (DOR).

Among the 98 patients in Cohort E, 77 (79%) had tumors that expressed PD-L1 with a CPS ≥1 and received at least one line of chemotherapy in the metastatic setting. PD-L1 status was determined using the PD-L1 IHC 22C3 pharmDx Kit. The baseline characteristics of these 77 patients were: median age was 45 years (range, 27 to 75 years); 81 percent were White, 14 percent Asian, and three percent Black; ECOG PS was 0 (32%) or 1 (68%); 92 percent had squamous cell carcinoma, six percent adenocarcinoma, and one percent adenosquamous histology; 95 percent had M1 disease and five percent had recurrent disease; 35 percent had one and 65 percent had two or more prior lines of therapy in the recurrent or metastatic setting.

For the 77 patients whose tumors expressed PD-L1 with a CPS ≥1, the ORR was 14.3 percent (95% CI, 7.4-24.1), with a complete response rate of 2.6 percent and partial response rate of 11.7 percent. Among the 11 responding patients, median DOR was not yet reached (range, 4.1 to 18.6+ months) and 91 percent experienced a duration of response of six months or longer. The median follow-up time was 11.7 months (range, 0.6 to 22.7 months). No responses were observed in patients whose tumors did not have PD-L1 expression (CPS<1).

Keytruda was discontinued due to adverse reactions in eight percent of 98 patients (in Cohort E) enrolled with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 39 percent of patients receiving Keytruda. The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported included anemia (7%), fistula, hemorrhage and infections [except urinary tract infections] (4.1% each). The most common adverse reactions (occurring in ≥20% of patients) were fatigue (43%), musculoskeletal pain (27%), diarrhea (23%), pain and abdominal pain (22% each), and decreased appetite (21%).

Merck’s 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 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 the Merck Access Program for Keytruda

At Merck, we are committed to supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines. Merck provides multiple programs to help ensure that appropriate patients who are prescribed Keytruda have access to our anti-PD-1 therapy. The Merck Access Program provides reimbursement support for patients receiving Keytruda, including information to help with out-of-pocket costs and co-pay assistance for eligible patients. Merck also offers free product through our patient assistance program to eligible patients, primarily the uninsured, who, without our assistance, could not afford their medicine. More information is available by calling 855-257-3932 or visiting www.merckaccessprogram-keytruda.com.

About Merck’s Patient Support Program for Keytruda

Merck is committed to helping provide patients and their caregivers support throughout their treatment with KEYTRUDA. The KEY+YOU Patient Support Program provides a range of resources and services. For further information and to sign up, patients and physicians may call 85-KEYTRUDA (855-398-7832) or visit www.keytruda.com.

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 and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Forward-Looking Statement of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA

This news release of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA (the “company”) includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of the company’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. There can be no guarantees with respect to pipeline products that the products will receive the necessary regulatory approvals or that they will prove to be commercially successful. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward health care cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; the company’s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of the company’s patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.

The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in the company’s 2017 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (www.sec.gov).

Source: Merck

Posted: June 2018

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