FDA Grants Approval for Pembrolizumab in Combination With Chemotherapy for First-Line Treatment of Metastatic Nonsquamous NSCLC

August 20, 2018
fda update

On August 20, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pembrolizumab (Keytruda) in combination with pemetrexed and platinum as first-line treatment of patients with metastatic, non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSqNSCLC), with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.

Pembrolizumab was previously granted accelerated approval for this indication in May 2017 based on improvements in overall response rate and progression-free survival for patients randomized to pembrolizumab administered with pemetrexed and carboplatin as compared with pemetrexed and carboplatin alone in the KEYNOTE-021 study.

Today’s approval represents fulfillment of a postmarketing commitment demonstrating the clinical benefit of this product. This action is based on the results of KEYNOTE-189 (NCT02578680), a randomized, multicenter, double-blind, active controlled study enrolling 616 patients receiving first-line treatment for metastatic NSqNSCLC. Patients were randomized (2:1) to receive pembrolizumab (or placebo) in combination with pemetrexed, and investigator’s choice of either cisplatin or carboplatin every three weeks for four cycles followed by pembrolizumab (or placebo) and pemetrexed. Treatment with pembrolizumab continued until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or a maximum of 24 months.

The primary efficacy outcome measures were overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), as assessed by a blinded independent committee review (RECIST 1.1.) 

The trial demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in OS for patients randomized to pembrolizumab and chemotherapy (HR 0.49; 95% CI: 0.38, 0.64; p<0.00001) in a pre-specified interim analysis. The median OS was not reached at the time of the data cut-off in the pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy arm and was 11.3 months for those in the chemotherapy arm. The trial also demonstrated an improvement in PFS for patients randomized to pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy (HR 0.52; 95% CI: 0.43, 0.64; p<0.00001). The median PFS was 8.8 months for patients receiving pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy and 4.9 months for those receiving chemotherapy alone. The overall response rate was significantly higher (48% vs. 19%; p=0.0001) for those in the pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy arm and the median response duration was 11.2 months and 7.8 months, respectively.

The most common adverse reactions reported in ≥20% of patients in KEYNOTE-189 were fatigue/asthenia, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, decreased appetite, rash, vomiting, cough, dyspnea, and pyrexia.

The recommended pembrolizumab dose and schedule for NSqNSCLC is 200 mg as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks.

View full prescribing information for pembrolizumab (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/125514s035lbl.pdf).

This is the second FDA approval using the Real Time Oncology Review (https://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofMedicalProductsandTobacco/OCE/ucm612927.htm)  pilot program that enabled the FDA review team to begin analyzing data before the application submission.

Healthcare professionals should report all serious adverse events suspected to be associated with the use of any medicine and device to FDA’s MedWatch Reporting System (http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm) or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.

In collaboration with the FDA and as a service to our members, ONS provides updates on recent FDA approvals and other important FDA actions (e.g., updated safety information, new prescribing information) pertaining to therapies for patients with cancer. This allows the agency to inform oncologists and professionals in oncology-related fields in a timely manner. Included in the FDA updates is a link to the product label or to other sites for additional relevant clinical information. In supplying this information, ONS does not endorse any product or therapy and does not take any position on the safety or efficacy of the product or therapy described.

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