Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Reduced the Risk of Death by 38% Versus Placebo as Adjuvant Therapy for Patients With Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) at an Increased Risk of Recurrence Following Nephrectomy

Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Reduced the Risk of Death by 38% Versus Placebo as Adjuvant Therapy for Patients With Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) at an Increased Risk of Recurrence Following Nephrectomy




Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Reduced the Risk of Death by 38% Versus Placebo as Adjuvant Therapy for Patients With Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) at an Increased Risk of Recurrence Following Nephrectomy

KEYNOTE-564 is the first Phase 3 trial to demonstrate superior overall survival (OS) with adjuvant therapy compared to placebo in patients with RCC

Late-breaking OS results selected for the official Press Program at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology Genitourinary Cancers Symposium

RAHWAY, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–$MRK #MRK–Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, today announced results from the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-564 trial evaluating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, 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. These late-breaking data are being presented during an oral session for the first time today at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Genitourinary (GU) Cancers Symposium (abstract #LBA359) and are included in the official ASCO GU Press Program.


At the third pre-specified interim analysis (median follow-up of 57.2 months [range, 47.9−74.5 months]), KEYTRUDA as adjuvant therapy significantly improved overall survival (OS), the trial’s key secondary endpoint, by 38% (HR=0.62 [95% CI, 0.44−0.87]; p=0.002) compared to placebo. At 48 months, the estimated OS rate was 91.2% for patients who received KEYTRUDA compared to 86.0% for patients who received placebo. The OS benefit for patients who received KEYTRUDA was observed across key subgroups.

For patients with renal cell carcinoma, up to 40% may experience recurrence following surgery, at which point there is a significantly lower chance of survival,” said Dr. Toni K. Choueiri, director, Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Jerome and Nancy Kohlberg professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School. “Results from KEYNOTE-564 show that pembrolizumab as adjuvant therapy significantly improved overall survival by 38% compared to placebo, becoming the first ever Phase 3 adjuvant trial to show improved survival for renal cancer patients at risk of recurrence after surgery.”

The positive overall survival results from KEYNOTE-564 build upon the disease-free survival data, which supported approvals of KEYTRUDA for this indication worldwide,” said Dr. Marjorie Green, senior vice president and head of oncology, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “This is the second KEYTRUDA study to demonstrate a significant overall survival benefit in an earlier stage of cancer, and these new results add to the progress we’re making in earlier stages of disease.”

As previously reported, at an earlier pre-specified interim analysis with a median follow-up of 24.1 months, KEYNOTE-564 met its primary endpoint of disease-free survival (DFS), reducing the risk of disease recurrence or death by 32% (HR=0.68 [95% CI, 0.53-0.87]; one-sided p=0.001) compared to placebo. At this third interim analysis, the DFS benefit was consistent with these previously reported data, with KEYTRUDA as adjuvant therapy reducing the risk of disease recurrence or death by 28% (HR=0.72 [95% CI, 0.59-0.87]) compared to placebo.

KEYTRUDA is approved for the adjuvant treatment of patients with RCC in the U.S., European Union, Japan and other countries worldwide based on DFS data from KEYNOTE-564, which were first presented at the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting. Merck is currently working with health authorities to include these OS data in the full KEYTRUDA prescribing information.

Merck has a broad clinical development program in RCC across multiple settings, including adjuvant and advanced disease, utilizing KEYTRUDA as monotherapy or in combination with WELIREG (belzutifan, Merck’s oral hypoxia-inducible factor-2 alpha [HIF-2α] inhibitor), LENVIMA (lenvatinib, a multi-targeted VEGF TKI, in collaboration with Eisai) and quavonlimab (a CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody being developed under an agreement with Akeso Inc.).

Study design and additional data from KEYNOTE-564

KEYNOTE-564 is a randomized, double-blind Phase 3 trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03142334) evaluating KEYTRUDA for the adjuvant treatment of patients with RCC who have undergone nephrectomy and who have disease that is intermediate-high risk, high risk or M1 no evidence of disease (NED). The primary endpoint is DFS as assessed by investigator review, and secondary endpoints include OS and safety. The study enrolled 994 patients who were randomized 1:1 to receive either KEYTRUDA (200 mg intravenously [IV] on Day 1 of each three-week cycle for up to 17 cycles) or placebo (saline solution IV on Day 1 of each three-week cycle for up to 17 cycles).

The OS benefit for patients who received KEYTRUDA was observed across key subgroups, including in patients with M0 disease (HR=0.63 [95% CI, 0.44-0.90]), M1 NED (HR=0.51 [95% CI, 0.15-1.75]), PD-L1 Combined Positive Score (CPS) <1 (HR=0.65 [95% CI, 0.31−1.38]) or CPS ≥1 (HR=0.62 [95% CI, 0.42−0.91]), and in patients with presence (HR=0.69 [95% CI, 0.28−1.70]) or absence (HR=0.57 [95% CI 0.39−0.84]) of sarcomatoid features.

The safety profile of KEYTRUDA was consistent with that observed in previously reported studies; no new safety signals were observed. Treatment-related adverse events (TRAEs) occurred in 79.1% of patients (n=386) in the KEYTRUDA arm and 53.0% of patients (n=263) in the placebo arm. Grade 3-4 TRAEs occurred in 18.6% of patients in the KEYTRUDA arm and 1.2% of patients in the placebo arm. Treatment-related adverse events resulting in discontinuation of any treatment occurred in 18.2% of patients in the KEYTRUDA arm and 0.8% of patients in the placebo arm. No treatment-related deaths occurred.

About renal cell carcinoma

Renal cell carcinoma is by far the most common type of kidney cancer; about nine out of 10 kidney cancer diagnoses are RCCs. Renal cell carcinoma is about twice as common in men than in women. Most cases of RCC are discovered incidentally during imaging tests for other abdominal diseases. Renal cell carcinoma is associated with a high risk of recurrence, with up to 40% of newly diagnosed patients experiencing recurrence within five years following surgery. In the U.S., it is estimated there will be approximately 81,600 new cases of kidney cancer diagnosed and approximately 14,400 deaths from the disease in 2024. Worldwide, it is estimated there were approximately 431,000 new cases of kidney cancer diagnosed and more than 179,000 deaths from the disease in 2020.

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 more than 25 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.

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.

See additional selected indications for KEYTRUDA in the U.S. after the Selected Important Safety Information.

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA

Severe and Fatal Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions

KEYTRUDA is a monoclonal antibody that belongs to a class of drugs that bind to either the programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) or the programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), blocking the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway, thereby removing inhibition of the immune response, potentially breaking peripheral tolerance and inducing immune-mediated adverse reactions. Immune-mediated adverse reactions, which may be severe or fatal, can occur in any organ system or tissue, can affect more than one body system simultaneously, and can occur at any time after starting treatment or after discontinuation of treatment. Important immune-mediated adverse reactions listed here may not include all possible severe and fatal immune-mediated adverse reactions.

Monitor patients closely for symptoms and signs that may be clinical manifestations of underlying immune-mediated adverse reactions. Early identification and management are essential to ensure safe use of anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Evaluate liver enzymes, creatinine, and thyroid function at baseline and periodically during treatment. For patients with TNBC treated with KEYTRUDA in the neoadjuvant setting, monitor blood cortisol at baseline, prior to surgery, and as clinically indicated. In cases of suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, initiate appropriate workup to exclude alternative etiologies, including infection. Institute medical management promptly, including specialty consultation as appropriate.

Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity of the immune-mediated adverse reaction. In general, if KEYTRUDA requires interruption or discontinuation, administer systemic corticosteroid therapy (1 to 2 mg/kg/day prednisone or equivalent) until improvement to Grade 1 or less. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Consider administration of other systemic immunosuppressants in patients whose adverse reactions are not controlled with corticosteroid therapy.

Immune-Mediated Pneumonitis

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis. The incidence is higher in patients who have received prior thoracic radiation. Immune-mediated pneumonitis occurred in 3.4% (94/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including fatal (0.1%), Grade 4 (0.3%), Grade 3 (0.9%), and Grade 2 (1.3%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 67% (63/94) of patients. Pneumonitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 1.3% (36) and withholding in 0.9% (26) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, 23% had recurrence. Pneumonitis resolved in 59% of the 94 patients.

Pneumonitis occurred in 8% (31/389) of adult patients with cHL receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent, including Grades 3-4 in 2.3% of patients. Patients received high-dose corticosteroids for a median duration of 10 days (range: 2 days to 53 months). Pneumonitis rates were similar in patients with and without prior thoracic radiation. Pneumonitis led to discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 5.4% (21) of patients. Of the patients who developed pneumonitis, 42% interrupted KEYTRUDA, 68% discontinued KEYTRUDA, and 77% had resolution.

Pneumonitis occurred in 7% (41/580) of adult patients with resected NSCLC who received KEYTRUDA as a single agent for adjuvant treatment of NSCLC, including fatal (0.2%), Grade 4 (0.3%), and Grade 3 (1%) adverse reactions. Patients received high-dose corticosteroids for a median duration of 10 days (range: 1 day to 2.3 months). Pneumonitis led to discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 26 (4.5%) of patients. Of the patients who developed pneumonitis, 54% interrupted KEYTRUDA, 63% discontinued KEYTRUDA, and 71% had resolution.

Immune-Mediated Colitis

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated colitis, which may present with diarrhea. Cytomegalovirus infection/reactivation has been reported in patients with corticosteroid-refractory immune-mediated colitis. In cases of corticosteroid-refractory colitis, consider repeating infectious workup to exclude alternative etiologies. Immune-mediated colitis occurred in 1.7% (48/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (1.1%), and Grade 2 (0.4%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 69% (33/48); additional immunosuppressant therapy was required in 4.2% of patients. Colitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.5% (15) and withholding in 0.5% (13) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, 23% had recurrence. Colitis resolved in 85% of the 48 patients.

Hepatotoxicity and Immune-Mediated Hepatitis

KEYTRUDA as a Single Agent

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hepatitis. Immune-mediated hepatitis occurred in 0.7% (19/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.4%), and Grade 2 (0.1%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 68% (13/19) of patients; additional immunosuppressant therapy was required in 11% of patients. Hepatitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.2% (6) and withholding in 0.3% (9) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, none had recurrence. Hepatitis resolved in 79% of the 19 patients.

KEYTRUDA With Axitinib

KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib can cause hepatic toxicity. Monitor liver enzymes before initiation of and periodically throughout treatment. Consider monitoring more frequently as compared to when the drugs are administered as single agents. For elevated liver enzymes, interrupt KEYTRUDA and axitinib, and consider administering corticosteroids as needed. With the combination of KEYTRUDA and axitinib, Grades 3 and 4 increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) (20%) and increased aspartate aminotransferase (AST) (13%) were seen at a higher frequency compared to KEYTRUDA alone. Fifty-nine percent of the patients with increased ALT received systemic corticosteroids. In patients with ALT ≥3 times upper limit of normal (ULN) (Grades 2-4, n=116), ALT resolved to Grades 0-1 in 94%. Among the 92 patients who were rechallenged with either KEYTRUDA (n=3) or axitinib (n=34) administered as a single agent or with both (n=55), recurrence of ALT ≥3 times ULN was observed in 1 patient receiving KEYTRUDA, 16 patients receiving axitinib, and 24 patients receiving both. All patients with a recurrence of ALT ≥3 ULN subsequently recovered from the event.

Immune-Mediated Endocrinopathies

Adrenal Insufficiency

KEYTRUDA can cause primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency. For Grade 2 or higher, initiate symptomatic treatment, including hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Adrenal insufficiency occurred in 0.8% (22/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.3%), and Grade 2 (0.3%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 77% (17/22) of patients; of these, the majority remained on systemic corticosteroids. Adrenal insufficiency led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (1) and withholding in 0.3% (8) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement.

Hypophysitis

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hypophysitis. Hypophysitis can present with acute symptoms associated with mass effect such as headache, photophobia, or visual field defects. Hypophysitis can cause hypopituitarism. Initiate hormone replacement as indicated. Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Hypophysitis occurred in 0.6% (17/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.3%), and Grade 2 (0.2%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 94% (16/17) of patients; of these, the majority remained on systemic corticosteroids. Hypophysitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.1% (4) and withholding in 0.3% (7) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement.

Thyroid Disorders

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated thyroid disorders. Thyroiditis can present with or without endocrinopathy. Hypothyroidism can follow hyperthyroidism. Initiate hormone replacement for hypothyroidism or institute medical management of hyperthyroidism as clinically indicated. Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Thyroiditis occurred in 0.6% (16/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.3%). None discontinued, but KEYTRUDA was withheld in <0.1% (1) of patients.

Hyperthyroidism occurred in 3.4% (96/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 3 (0.1%) and Grade 2 (0.8%). It led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (2) and withholding in 0.3% (7) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement. Hypothyroidism occurred in 8% (237/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 3 (0.1%) and Grade 2 (6.2%). It led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (1) and withholding in 0.5% (14) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement. The majority of patients with hypothyroidism required long-term thyroid hormone replacement. The incidence of new or worsening hypothyroidism was higher in 1185 patients with HNSCC, occurring in 16% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent or in combination with platinum and FU, including Grade 3 (0.3%) hypothyroidism. The incidence of new or worsening hypothyroidism was higher in 389 adult patients with cHL (17%) receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent, including Grade 1 (6.2%) and Grade 2 (10.8%) hypothyroidism. The incidence of new or worsening hyperthyroidism was higher in 580 patients with resected NSCLC, occurring in 11% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent as adjuvant treatment, including Grade 3 (0.2%) hyperthyroidism. The incidence of new or worsening hypothyroidism was higher in 580 patients with resected NSCLC, occurring in 22% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent as adjuvant treatment (KEYNOTE-091), including Grade 3 (0.3%) hypothyroidism.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (DM), Which Can Present With Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Initiate treatment with insulin as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Type 1 DM occurred in 0.2% (6/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA. It led to permanent discontinuation in <0.1% (1) and withholding of KEYTRUDA in <0.1% (1) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement.

Immune-Mediated Nephritis With Renal Dysfunction

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated nephritis. Immune-mediated nephritis occurred in 0.3% (9/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.1%), and Grade 2 (0.1%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 89% (8/9) of patients. Nephritis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 0.1% (3) and withholding in 0.1% (3) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, none had recurrence. Nephritis resolved in 56% of the 9 patients.

Immune-Mediated Dermatologic Adverse Reactions

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated rash or dermatitis. Exfoliative dermatitis, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms, and toxic epidermal necrolysis, has occurred with anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Topical emollients and/or topical corticosteroids may be adequate to treat mild to moderate nonexfoliative rashes. Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity. Immune-mediated dermatologic adverse reactions occurred in 1.4% (38/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 3 (1%) and Grade 2 (0.1%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 40% (15/38) of patients. These reactions led to permanent discontinuation in 0.1% (2) and withholding of KEYTRUDA in 0.6% (16) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, 6% had recurrence. The reactions resolved in 79% of the 38 patients.

Other Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions

The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred at an incidence of <1% (unless otherwise noted) in patients who received KEYTRUDA or were reported with the use of other anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Severe or fatal cases have been reported for some of these adverse reactions. Cardiac/Vascular: Myocarditis, pericarditis, vasculitis; Nervous System: Meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and demyelination, myasthenic syndrome/myasthenia gravis (including exacerbation), Guillain-Barré syndrome, nerve paresis, autoimmune neuropathy; Ocular: Uveitis, iritis and other ocular inflammatory toxicities can occur. Some cases can be associated with retinal detachment. Various grades of visual impairment, including blindness, can occur. If uveitis occurs in combination with other immune-mediated adverse reactions, consider a Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome, as this may require treatment with systemic steroids to reduce the risk of permanent vision loss; Gastrointestinal: Pancreatitis, to include increases in serum amylase and lipase levels, gastritis, duodenitis; Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue: Myositis/polymyositis, rhabdomyolysis (and associated sequelae, including renal failure), arthritis (1.5%), polymyalgia rheumatica; Endocrine: Hypoparathyroidism; Hematologic/Immune: Hemolytic anemia, aplastic anemia, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, histiocytic necrotizing lymphadenitis (Kikuchi lymphadenitis), sarcoidosis, immune thrombocytopenic purpura, solid organ transplant rejection.

Infusion-Related Reactions

KEYTRUDA can cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions, including hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis, which have been reported in 0.2% of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions. Interrupt or slow the rate of infusion for Grade 1 or Grade 2 reactions. For Grade 3 or Grade 4 reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.

Complications of Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT)

Fatal and other serious complications can occur in patients who receive allogeneic HSCT before or after anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Transplant-related complications include hyperacute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), acute and chronic GVHD, hepatic veno-occlusive disease after reduced intensity conditioning, and steroid-requiring febrile syndrome (without an identified infectious cause). These complications may occur despite intervening therapy between anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatment and allogeneic HSCT.

Contacts

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(732) 594-1577

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