European Commission Approves Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in Combination with Inlyta® (axitinib) as First-Line Treatment for Patients with Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)

European Approval Based on KEYNOTE-426 Trial Results Demonstrating Significant Improvement in Overall Survival with KEYTRUDA in Combination with Axitinib Compared to Sunitinib

KEYTRUDA is First Anti-PD-1 Therapy Approved as Part of a Combination Regimen in Europe for RCC Across All IMDC Risk Groups

KENILWORTH, NJ, USA I September 04, 2019 I Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced that the European Commission has approved KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with Inlyta (axitinib), a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC). This approval includes patients in all IMDC risk groups. It is based on findings from the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 trial, which demonstrated that KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib reduced the risk of death by 47% compared with sunitinib (HR=0.53 [95% CI, 0.38, 0.74]; p=0.00005) in patients with advanced RCC. The KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination also demonstrated an improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) and objective response rate (ORR) compared with sunitinib.

“Advanced renal cell carcinoma is one of the most lethal types of cancer, with the majority of patients dying within five years of their initial diagnosis,” said Prof. Thomas Powles, lead investigator for KEYNOTE-426 and director of Barts Cancer Centre. “It’s encouraging that we can now offer patients in Europe the KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination as a first-line treatment option.”

The approval allows marketing of the KEYTRUDA combination in all 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway.

“The European approval of the KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination for the treatment of advanced RCC marks an important milestone in our efforts for patients with this aggressive disease,” said Dr. Scot Ebbinghaus, vice president, clinical research, Merck Research Laboratories. “Offering an additional treatment option in the first-line setting is particularly important in patients with advanced RCC and underscores our commitment to develop KEYTRUDA in areas of unmet need.”

Data Supporting the European Approval

The approval was based on data from KEYNOTE-426, a Phase 3, randomized, multi-center, open-label, active-controlled trial evaluating KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib in patients with advanced RCC with clear cell component, regardless of PD-L1 tumor expression status and International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium (IMDC) risk categories. The trial excluded patients with autoimmune disease or a medical condition that required immunosuppression. Randomization was stratified by risk categories (favorable versus intermediate versus poor) and geographic region (North America versus Western Europe versus “Rest of the World”). The dual primary endpoints were overall survival (OS) and PFS (as assessed by BICR using RECIST 1.1); secondary endpoints included ORR and duration of response (DOR), as assessed by BICR using RECIST 1.1. The study enrolled 861 patients who were randomized (1:1) to one of the following treatment arms:

  • KEYTRUDA 200 mg intravenously every three weeks in combination with axitinib 5 mg orally, twice daily. Patients who tolerated axitinib 5 mg twice daily for two consecutive treatment cycles (i.e. 6 weeks) with no > Grade 2 treatment‑related adverse events to axitinib and with blood pressure well controlled to ≤ 150/90 mm Hg were permitted dose escalation of axitinib to 7 mg twice daily. Dose escalation of axitinib to 10 mg twice daily was permitted using the same criteria. Axitinib could be interrupted or reduced to 3 mg twice daily and subsequently to 2 mg twice daily to manage toxicity.
  • Sunitinib 50 mg orally, once daily for four weeks and then off treatment for two weeks.

Treatment with KEYTRUDA and axitinib continued until RECIST v1.1-defined progression of disease as verified by BICR or confirmed by the investigator, unacceptable toxicity, or for KEYTRUDA, a maximum of 24 months.

In KEYNOTE-426, KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in OS, reducing the risk of death by 47% compared with sunitinib (HR=0.53 [95% CI, 0.38, 0.74]; p=0.00005). There were 59 events (14%) observed in patients receiving KEYTRUDA with axitinib (n=432) versus 97 events (23%) in patients receiving sunitinib (n=429). Median OS was not reached with either treatment regimen. The KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination also demonstrated improved PFS, with a reduction in the risk of progression or death of 31% compared with sunitinib (HR=0.69 [95% CI, 0.57, 0.84]; p=0.00012). There were 183 events (42%) observed in patients receiving KEYTRUDA with axitinib versus 213 events (50%) in patients receiving sunitinib. Median PFS was 15.1 months (95% CI, 12.6, 17.7) in patients who received the KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination versus 11.0 months (95% CI, 8.7, 12.5) for those who received sunitinib. In the study, the ORR was 59% for patients who received the KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination (95% CI, 54, 64) and 36% for those who received sunitinib (95% CI, 31, 40) (p<0.0001), with a complete response rate of 6% and 2% and a partial response rate of 53% and 34%, for patients who received the KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination versus sunitinib, respectively. The median DOR was not reached (range, 1.4+ to 18.2+ months) with the KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination and was 15.2 months (range 1.1+ to 15.4+ months) with sunitinib.

In KEYNOTE-426, the safety of KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib was investigated in patients with previously untreated, advanced RCC. When KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib is given, higher than expected frequencies of Grades 3 and 4 ALT and AST elevations compared to KEYTRUDA alone have been reported in patients with advanced RCC. With the combination of KEYTRUDA and axitinib, Grades 3 and 4 increased ALT (20%) and increased AST (13%) have been reported. Among patients with advanced RCC, the most frequent adverse reactions were diarrhea (54%), hypertension (45%), fatigue (38%), hypothyroidism (35%), decreased appetite (30%), palmar-plantar erythrodysaesthesia syndrome (28%), nausea (28%), ALT increased (27%), AST increased (26%), dysphonia (25%), cough (21%) and constipation (21%). Incidences of Grades 3-5 adverse reactions were 76% for the KEYTRUDA with axitinib combination and 71% for sunitinib.

About Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) in Europe

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is by far the most common type of kidney cancer; about 9 out of 10 kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas. RCC is about twice as common in men as in women. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances and high blood pressure. There were approximately 403,000 cases of kidney cancer diagnosed worldwide in 2018 and about 175,000 deaths from the disease. In Europe, it is estimated that 136,500 new cases of kidney cancer were diagnosed in 2018 and approximately 54,700 people died from the disease.

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.

Merck has the industry’s largest immuno-oncology clinical research program. There are currently more than 1,000 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.

KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Indications and Dosing

Melanoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma. The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of patients with melanoma with involvement of lymph node(s) following complete resection. The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA for the adjuvant treatment of adult patients with melanoma is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease recurrence, unacceptable toxicity, or for up to 12 months in patients without disease recurrence.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.

KEYTRUDA, in combination with carboplatin and either paclitaxel or paclitaxel protein-bound, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic squamous NSCLC.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with NSCLC expressing PD-L1 [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥1%] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations, and is stage III where patients are not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation, or metastatic.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is 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 NSCLC, the recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

When administering KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy, administer KEYTRUDA prior to chemotherapy when given on the same day. Refer to the Prescribing Information for the chemotherapy agents administered in combination with KEYTRUDA for recommended dosing information, as appropriate.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with metastatic small cell lung cancer (SCLC) with disease progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy and at least one other prior line 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 confirmatory trials. In SCLC, the recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Head and Neck Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with platinum and fluorouracil (FU), is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic or with unresectable, recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic or with unresectable, recurrent HNSCC whose tumors express PD-L1 [combined positive score (CPS) ≥1] as determined by an FDA-approved test.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic HNSCC with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

In HNSCC, the recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

When administering KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy, administer KEYTRUDA prior to chemotherapy when given on the same day. Refer to the Prescribing Information for the chemotherapy agents administered in combination with KEYTRUDA for recommended dosing information, as appropriate.

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 3 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 200 mg is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 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 as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes at a dose of 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Primary Mediastinal Large B-Cell Lymphoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with refractory primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL), or who have relapsed after 2 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 confirmatory trials. KEYTRUDA is not recommended for the treatment of patients with PMBCL who require urgent cytoreductive therapy.

In adults with PMBCL, KEYTRUDA 200 mg is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA in pediatric patients is 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg), administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 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 (mUC) who are not eligible for cisplatin-containing chemotherapy and whose tumors express PD-L1 [CPS ≥10] as determined by an FDA-approved test, or in patients who are not eligible for any platinum-containing chemotherapy regardless of PD-L1 status. 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 indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC) 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 200 mg is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 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 200 mg is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA in pediatric patients is 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg), administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Gastric Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinoma whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥1) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression on or after two or more prior lines of therapy including fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-containing chemotherapy and if appropriate, HER2/neu-targeted 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. The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Esophageal Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥10) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression after one or more prior lines of systemic therapy.

In patients with esophageal cancer, the recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Cervical Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer with disease progression on or after chemotherapy whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥1) as determined by an FDA-approved test. 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 recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Hepatocellular Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who have been previously treated with sorafenib. 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 recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma. 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 recommended dose of KEYTRUDA in adults is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA in pediatric patients is 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg), administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Renal Cell Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA, in combination with axitinib, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC). In RCC, KEYTRUDA 200 mg is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks in combination with 5 mg axitinib orally twice daily until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or for KEYTRUDA, up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. When axitinib is used in combination with KEYTRUDA, dose escalation of axitinib above the initial 5 mg dose may be considered at intervals of six weeks or longer. See also the Prescribing Information for recommended axitinib dosing information.

Merck’s Focus on Cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck, the potential to bring new hope to people with cancer drives our purpose and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. As part of our focus on cancer, Merck is committed to exploring the potential of immuno-oncology with one of the largest development programs in the industry across more than 30 tumor types. We also continue to strengthen our portfolio through strategic acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising oncology 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 and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

SOURCE: Merck

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