Data from Exploratory Analysis Show Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Improved Overall Survival as Monotherapy for the First-Line Treatment of Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Regardless of KRAS Mutational Status

New Findings from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-042 Study Were Presented Today at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Immuno-Oncology Congress 2019

KENILWORTH, NJ, USA I December 12, 2019 I Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced that KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, showed improvements in overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS) and objective response rate (ORR) as monotherapy for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors expressed PD-L1 (tumor proportion score [TPS] ≥1%), regardless of KRAS mutational status. These findings, which are based on an exploratory analysis of the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-042 trial, were presented today in a proffered paper presentation (Abstract #LBA4) at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Immuno-Oncology Congress 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

KRAS mutations occur in approximately 20% of people with non-small cell lung cancer, and some previous studies have suggested that these mutations are associated with a poorer response to treatment,” said Dr. Jonathan Cheng, vice president, oncology clinical research, Merck Research Laboratories. “It was therefore encouraging to see in this exploratory analysis that KEYTRUDA monotherapy was associated with a survival benefit in certain patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer, regardless of KRAS mutational status.”

The objective of the exploratory analysis was to assess the prevalence of KRAS mutations and their association with efficacy in the KEYNOTE-042 trial. Of the 1,274 untreated patients with metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC whose tumors expressed PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%) enrolled in KEYNOTE-042, 301 patients had KRAS evaluable data (n=232 without any KRAS mutation; n=69 with any KRAS mutation, including n=29 with the KRAS G12C mutation). Tissue tumor mutational burden (tTMB) and KRAS mutational status were determined by whole-exome sequencing (WES) of tumor tissue and matched normal DNA (blood). Patients were randomized 1:1 to receive KEYTRUDA 200 mg intravenously every three weeks (Q3W) (n=637) or investigator’s choice of chemotherapy (pemetrexed or paclitaxel) (n=637). Treatment continued until progression of disease or unacceptable toxicity. The primary endpoint was OS with a TPS of ≥50%, ≥20% and ≥1%, which were assessed sequentially. The secondary endpoints were PFS and ORR.

Findings from this exploratory analysis showed that KEYTRUDA monotherapy was associated with improved clinical outcomes, regardless of KRAS mutational status, in patients with metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC versus chemotherapy. In this analysis, KEYTRUDA reduced the risk of death by 58% (HR=0.42 [95% CI, 0.22-0.81]) in patients with any KRAS mutation and by 72% (HR=0.28 [95% CI, 0.09-0.86]) in patients with the KRAS G12C mutation compared to chemotherapy. The safety profile of KEYTRUDA was consistent with what has been seen in previously reported studies among patients with metastatic NSCLC.

Additional efficacy results from this exploratory analysis showed:

  With Any KRAS
Mutation
With KRAS G12C
Mutation
Without Any KRAS
Mutation

KEYTRUDA Mono-therapy

(N = 30)

Chemo-therapy

(N = 39)

 

KEYTRUDA Mono-therapy
(N = 12)

Chemo-therapy
(N = 17)

 

KEYTRUDA Mono-therapy

(N = 127)

Chemo-therapy
(N = 105)

 

OS, median, mo
(95% CI)
28 (23-NR) 11 (7-25) NR (23-NR) 8 (5-NR) 15 (12-24) 12 (11-18)
OS, HR
(95% CI)
0.42 (0.22-0.81) 0.28 (0.09-0.86) 0.86 (0.63-1.18)
ORR, %
(95% CI)
56.7 18.0 66.7 23.5 29.1 21.0
PFS, median, mo
(95% CI)
12 (8-NR) 6 (4-9) 15 (10-NR) 6 (4-8) 6 (4-7) 6 (6-8)
PFS, HR
(95% CI)
0.51 (0.29-0.87) 0.27 (0.10-0.71) 1.00 (0.75-1.34)

Data from an exploratory analysis of KEYNOTE-189 (Abstract #LBA5), which evaluated KRAS mutations and their association with efficacy outcomes for KEYTRUDA in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy, were also presented in a mini-oral session today at the ESMO Immuno-Oncology Congress 2019. KEYNOTE-189 was conducted in collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company, the makers of pemetrexed (ALIMTA®).

About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer, which forms in the tissues of the lungs, usually within cells lining the air passages, is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than die of colon and breast cancers combined. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell and small cell. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for about 85% of all cases. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for about 10 to 15% of all lung cancers. Lung cancer can also be characterized by the presence of different biomarkers, including PD-L1, KRAS, ALK, EGFR and ROS1. KRAS mutations occur in about 20% of NSCLC cases. Between 2008 and 2014, the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed in the U.S. with advanced NSCLC was only 5%.

About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Injection, 100mg

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.

Selected KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Indications

Melanoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of patients with melanoma with involvement of lymph node(s) following complete resection.

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.

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.

Head and Neck Squamous Cell 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Renal Cell Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA, in combination with axitinib, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

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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