KEYTRUDA ® therapy meets primary endpoint in KEYNOTE-048 trial

MSD has announced that the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-048 trial investigating KEYTRUDA ® (pembrolizumab), an anti-PD-1 therapy, for first-line treatment of recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), met a primary endpoint of overall survival (OS) as monotherapy in patients whose tumours expressed PD-L1.

Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that begin in the flat, squamous cells that make up the thin surface layer of the structures in the head and neck. The leading modifiable risk factors for head and neck cancer include tobacco and heavy alcohol use. Worldwide, there were approximately 686,000 new cases of head and neck cancer in 2012, and around 376,000 died from this disease.

Based on an interim analysis conducted by the independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC), treatment with KEYTRUDA monotherapy in these patients resulted in significantly longer OS compared to cetuximab in combination with platinum chemotherapy (cisplatin or carboplatin) plus 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU), the current standard of care for HNSCC in the first-line treatment setting. At the time of the interim analysis, the dual-primary endpoint of progression-free-survival (PFS) for patients whose tumours expressed PD-L1 (CPS≥20) had not been reached.

The safety profile of KEYTRUDA in this trial was consistent with that observed in previously reported studies involving patients with HNSCC. These results will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting and submitted to regulatory authorities worldwide.

Based on the recommendation of the DMC, the trial will continue with no changes to evaluate KEYTRUDA monotherapy and KEYTRUDA in combination with platinum chemotherapy (cisplatin or carboplatin) plus 5-FU.

Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president and head of global clinical development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories said: “This interim analysis of KEYNOTE-048 trial has shown that KEYTRUDA monotherapy has the potential to help patients with head and neck cancer whose tumours express high-levels of PD-L1. We look forward to presenting these initial results from the KEYNOTE-048 trial at an upcoming medical meeting, and are grateful to the investigators and patients for their continued involvement in this important study.”