Merck Announces Pivotal KEYNOTE-671 Trial Meets Dual Primary Endpoint of Overall Survival (OS) in Resectable Stage II, IIIA or IIIB Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) is the first anti-PD-1 therapy to demonstrate statistically significant improvement in OS as a neoadjuvant and adjuvant treatment versus pre-operative chemotherapy for NSCLC

RAHWAY, NJ, USA I October 10, 2023 I Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, today announced the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-671 trial investigating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, as a perioperative treatment regimen for patients with resectable stage II, IIIA or IIIB (T3-4N2) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) met its dual primary endpoint of overall survival (OS). At a pre-specified interim analysis, KEYTRUDA plus chemotherapy before surgery (neoadjuvant), followed by resection and KEYTRUDA as a single agent after surgery (adjuvant), demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in OS compared to neoadjuvant placebo plus chemotherapy followed by adjuvant placebo in these patients.

The safety profile of KEYTRUDA was consistent with that observed in previously reported studies; no new safety signals were identified. Full results from this analysis of KEYNOTE-671 will be presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress 2023 and shared with regulatory authorities worldwide.

“This is a significant milestone in the treatment of resectable non-small cell lung cancer, as it represents the first Phase 3 study to show a statistically significant overall survival benefit for these patients with stage II, IIIA or IIIB (T3-4N2) non-small cell lung cancer. These results build upon the previously reported event-free survival data, and demonstrate the potential for this KEYTRUDA-based regimen to help extend the lives of these patients,” said Dr. Marjorie Green, senior vice president and head of late-stage oncology, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “We're excited by the progress we have made to help patients with earlier stages of non-small cell lung cancer, who are in need of additional treatment options.”

As previously announced, at the first interim analysis, KEYNOTE-671 met the other one of its dual primary endpoints, event-free survival (EFS), as well as its key secondary endpoints of pathological complete response (pCR) and major pathological response (mPR). These results were presented at the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and, based on these data, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted Merck’s new supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) with a Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), or target action, date of October 16, 2023.

Merck has an extensive clinical development program in lung cancer and is advancing multiple registration-enabling studies, with research directed at earlier stages of disease and novel combinations. Key studies in earlier stages of NSCLC and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) include KEYNOTE-671, KEYNOTE-091, KEYNOTE-867, KEYLYNK-012, KEYVIBE-006 and KEYLYNK-013.

About KEYNOTE-671

KEYNOTE-671 is a randomized, double-blind Phase 3 trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03425643) evaluating neoadjuvant KEYTRUDA plus chemotherapy, followed by adjuvant KEYTRUDA as a single agent versus placebo plus neoadjuvant chemotherapy, followed by adjuvant placebo in patients with resectable stage II, IIIA or IIIB (T3-4N2) NSCLC. The trial’s dual primary endpoints are EFS and OS. Key secondary endpoints include pCR and mPR. The study enrolled 786 patients who were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either:

  • KEYTRUDA (200 mg intravenously [IV] every three weeks [Q3W] for up to four cycles) plus chemotherapy (cisplatin [75 mg/m^2, IV; given on Day 1 of each cycle] and either gemcitabine [1000 mg/m^2, IV; given on Days 1 and 8 of each cycle) or pemetrexed [500 mg/m^2, IV; given on Day 1 of each cycle]) as neoadjuvant therapy prior to surgery, followed by KEYTRUDA (200 mg IV Q3W for up to 13 cycles) as adjuvant therapy post-surgery, or
  • Placebo (saline IV Q3W for up to four cycles) plus chemotherapy (cisplatin [75 mg/m^2, IV; given on Day 1 of each cycle] and either gemcitabine [1000 mg/m^2, IV; given on Days 1 and 8 of each cycle] or pemetrexed [500 mg/m^2, IV; given on Day 1 of each cycle]) as neoadjuvant therapy prior to surgery, followed by placebo (saline IV Q3W for up to 13 cycles) as adjuvant therapy post-surgery.

About lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. In 2020 alone, there were more than 2.2 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths from lung cancer globally. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for about 81% of all cases. In the U.S., the overall five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with lung cancer is 25%, which is a 21% improvement over the last five years. Improved survival rates are due, in part, to earlier detection and screening, advances in diagnostic and surgical procedures, as well as the introduction of new therapies. Early detection and screening remain an important unmet need, as 44% of lung cancer cases are not found until they are advanced. Only 5.8% of people in the U.S. who are eligible were screened for lung cancer in 2021.

About Merck’s research in lung cancer

Merck is advancing research aimed at transforming the way lung cancer is treated, with a goal of improving outcomes for patients affected by this deadly disease. Through nearly 200 clinical trials evaluating more than 36,000 patients around the world, Merck is at the forefront of lung cancer research. In NSCLC, KEYTRUDA has five approved U.S. indications (see indications below) and is approved for advanced disease in more than 95 countries. Among Merck’s research efforts are trials focused on evaluating KEYTRUDA in earlier stages of lung cancer as well as identifying new combinations and coformulations with KEYTRUDA.

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.

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.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated as adjuvant treatment following resection and platinum-based chemotherapy for adult patients with stage IB (T2a ≥4 cm), II, or IIIA NSCLC.

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.

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, in combination with enfortumab vedotin, is indicated for the treatment of adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC) who are not eligible for cisplatin-containing chemotherapy.

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.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, 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.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, 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, as determined by an FDA-approved test, that have progressed following prior treatment and who have no satisfactory alternative treatment options.

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) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

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 gastroesophageal junction (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 RCC at intermediate-high or high risk of recurrence following nephrectomy, or following nephrectomy and resection of metastatic lesions.

Endometrial Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with advanced endometrial carcinoma that is MSI-H or dMMR, as determined by an FDA-approved test, who have disease progression following prior systemic therapy in any setting and are not candidates for curative surgery or radiation.

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

At Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, we are unified around our purpose: We use the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world. For more than 130 years, we have brought hope to humanity through the development of important medicines and vaccines. We aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world – and today, we are at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people and animals. We foster a diverse and inclusive global workforce and operate responsibly every day to enable a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all people and communities. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

SOURCE: Merck

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