Patients with advanced melanoma who received adjuvant therapy with pembrolizumab and subsequently developed immune-related adverse events (irAEs) saw a 63% reduced risk of recurrence, compared to 44% for those who did not develop irAEs. The study findings were presented at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

The patient sample was part of the EORTC 1325/KEYNOTE-054 clinical trial and consisted of 1,019 adults with complete resection of stage III metastatic melanoma. A total of 37.3% of the patients receiving pembrolizumab developed irAEs, mostly endocrine related. About 5% had vitiligo or rash. irAEs occurred in only 9% of those receiving placebo.

Patients receiving pembrolizumab who had irAEs had a significant reduction in hazard of recurrence or death (p = 0.028) compared to those without irAEs. “This study shows that for patients who have an immune-related adverse event with pembrolizumab, outcomes are almost twice as good as for those who do not,” the researchers reported.