Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Showed Statistically Significant Improvement in Disease-Free Survival Versus Placebo as Adjuvant Treatment for Patients With Stage IB-IIIA Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Regardless of PD-L1 Expression

First Positive Study for KEYTRUDA in Adjuvant Stage IB-IIIA NSCLC

KENILWORTH, NJ, USA I January 10, 2022 I Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and the European Thoracic Oncology Platform (ETOP) today announced that the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-091 trial, also known as EORTC-1416-LCG/ETOP-8-15 – PEARLS, investigating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, met one of its dual primary endpoints of disease-free survival (DFS) for the adjuvant treatment of patients with stage IB-IIIA non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) following surgical resection regardless of PD-L1 expression. Based on an interim analysis review conducted by an independent Data Monitoring Committee, adjuvant treatment with KEYTRUDA resulted in a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in DFS compared with placebo in the all-comer population of patients with stage IB-IIIA NSCLC.

At the interim analysis, there was also an improvement in DFS for patients whose tumors express PD-L1 (tumor proportion score [TPS] ≥50%) treated with KEYTRUDA compared to placebo; however, this dual primary endpoint did not meet statistical significance per the pre-specified statistical plan. The trial will continue to analyze DFS in patients whose tumors express high levels of PD-L1 (TPS ≥50%) and evaluate overall survival (OS), a key secondary endpoint.

The safety profile of KEYTRUDA in this study was consistent with that observed in previously reported studies. Results will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting and will be submitted to regulatory authorities.

“KEYTRUDA has become foundational in the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and we continue to advance research to explore its potential to help fight cancer earlier,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president and head of global clinical development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories. “We are encouraged by these results supporting the potential role of KEYTRUDA in stage IB-IIIA non-small cell lung cancer. We thank the patients, investigators and our partners at EORTC and ETOP for their important contributions to this study and look forward to sharing these results with the medical community as soon as possible.”

“Surgery is widely considered the first and most important intervention for most patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer; however, an estimated 43% of those who undergo surgery will see their disease return,” said Professor Mary O’Brien, The Royal Marsden, NHS Foundation Trust, and Imperial College, London, UK and co-principal investigator. “Data from KEYNOTE-091 suggest adjuvant KEYTRUDA reduced the risk of disease recurrence or death after surgery in the overall population of patients with stage IB-IIIA non-small cell lung cancer.”

“Globally, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and it remains critically important to detect and treat lung cancer early,” said Dr. Luis Paz-Ares, chair of the medical oncology department, Hospital Universitario Doce de Octubre, Madrid, Spain and co-principal investigator. “The goal of adjuvant treatment is to lower the risk of cancer returning after surgery. By moving KEYTRUDA into earlier stages of non-small cell lung cancer, we may be able to reduce the risk of disease recurrence after surgery for patients with stage IB-IIIA non-small cell lung cancer.”

Merck has an extensive clinical development program in lung cancer and is advancing multiple registration-enabling studies with KEYTRUDA in combination with other treatments and as monotherapy for the treatment of lung cancer. The results from KEYNOTE-091 are a first for KEYTRUDA in the adjuvant treatment setting in patients with stage IB-IIIA NSCLC.

About KEYNOTE-091/EORTC-1416-LCG – PEARLS

KEYNOTE-091, also known as EORTC-1416-LCG/ETOP-8-15 – PEARLS, is a randomized, Phase 3 trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02504372) sponsored by Merck and conducted in collaboration with EORTC and ETOP evaluating KEYTRUDA compared to placebo for the adjuvant treatment of patients with stage IB-IIIA NSCLC following surgical resection (lobectomy or pneumonectomy) with or without adjuvant chemotherapy. The dual primary endpoints are DFS in the overall population and in patients whose tumors express PD-L1 (TPS ≥50%). DFS is calculated as the time from randomization to the date of disease recurrence, occurrence of second lung cancer primary, occurrence of second malignancy, or death from any cause, whichever occurs first. The secondary endpoints include OS and lung cancer-specific survival (the time from randomization to date of death due to lung cancer specifically). The study enrolled 1,177 patients who were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either:

  • KEYTRUDA (200 mg intravenously [IV] every three weeks [Q3W] for one year or maximum 18 doses); or
  • Placebo (IV Q3W for one year or maximum 18 doses).

About EORTC

The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, which unites clinical cancer research experts, throughout Europe, to define better treatments for cancer patients to prolong survival and improve quality of life. Spanning from translational to large, prospective, multi-centre, phase III clinical trials that evaluate new therapies and treatment strategies as well as patient quality of life, its activities are coordinated from EORTC Headquarters, a unique international clinical research infrastructure, based in Brussels, Belgium.

For further information, please visit the EORTC website: www.eortc.org.

About ETOP

The European Thoracic Oncology Platform (ETOP) is a foundation promoting exchange and research in the field of thoracic malignancies in Europe. It is a not-for-profit organization, domiciled in Bern, Switzerland. Since 2009 ETOP been able to bring together international leaders in field of thoracic malignancies from all disciplines and has continuously enlarged its clinical trial and translational research activity in collaboration with many groups and institutions from 20 countries from Europe and beyond.

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. Surgery is often the first intervention for patients with early-stage NSCLC; however, the recurrence rate for resected NSCLC is estimated to be 43%. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for about 10% to 15% of all lung cancers. Before 2014, the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed in the United States with NSCLC and SCLC was estimated to be 5% and 6%, respectively.

About Merck’s Early-Stage Cancer Clinical Program

Finding cancer at an earlier stage may give patients a greater chance of long-term survival. Many cancers are considered most treatable and potentially curable in their earliest stage of disease. Building on the strong understanding of the role of KEYTRUDA in later-stage cancers, Merck is studying KEYTRUDA in earlier disease states, with approximately 20 ongoing registrational studies across multiple types of cancer.

About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Injection, 100 mg

KEYTRUDA is an anti-programmed death receptor-1 (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 1,600 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 in the U.S.

Melanoma

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

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of adult and pediatric (12 years and older) patients with stage IIB, IIC, or III melanoma 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.

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 patients with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL).

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of pediatric patients with refractory cHL, or cHL that has relapsed after 2 or more lines of therapy.

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. KEYTRUDA is not recommended for 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 any platinum-containing chemotherapy, or
  • who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy or within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Non-muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)-unresponsive, high-risk, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) with carcinoma in situ (CIS) with or without papillary tumors who are ineligible for or have elected not to undergo cystectomy.

Microsatellite Instability-High or Mismatch Repair Deficient 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.

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.

Microsatellite Instability-High or Mismatch Repair Deficient Colorectal Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic MSI-H or dMMR colorectal cancer (CRC).

Gastric Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with trastuzumab, fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-containing chemotherapy, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with locally advanced unresectable or metastatic HER2-positive gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinoma.

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 locally advanced or metastatic esophageal or GEJ (tumors with epicenter 1 to 5 centimeters above the GEJ) carcinoma that is not amenable to surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation either:

  • in combination with platinum- and fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy, or
  • as a single agent after one or more prior lines of systemic therapy for patients with tumors of squamous cell histology that express PD-L1 (CPS ≥10) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

Cervical Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with chemotherapy, with or without bevacizumab, is indicated for the treatment of patients with persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer whose tumors express PD-L1 (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 cervical cancer with disease progression on or after chemotherapy whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥1) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

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 (MCC). 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 adult patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) at intermediate-high or high risk of recurrence following nephrectomy, or following nephrectomy and resection of metastatic lesions.

Tumor Mutational Burden-High Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with unresectable or metastatic tumor mutational burden-high (TMB-H) [≥10 mutations/megabase] solid tumors, as determined by an FDA-approved test, that have progressed following prior treatment and who have no satisfactory alternative treatment options. 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 TMB-H central nervous system cancers have not been established.

Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) or locally advanced cSCC that is not curable by surgery or radiation.

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with high-risk early-stage triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in combination with chemotherapy as neoadjuvant treatment, and then continued as a single agent as adjuvant treatment after surgery.

KEYTRUDA, in combination with chemotherapy, is indicated for the treatment of patients with locally recurrent unresectable or metastatic TNBC whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥10) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

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 over 130 years, Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases in pursuit of our mission to save and improve lives. We demonstrate our commitment to patients and population health by increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to prevent and treat diseases that threaten people and animals – including cancer, infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola, and emerging animal diseases – as we aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

SOURCE: Merck

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