FDA Expands Pembrolizumab Approval for Advanced Melanoma

Sharon Worcester

December 06, 2021

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for the adjuvant treatment of stage IIB and IIC melanoma after complete resection in adults and children over age 12 years. The FDA also extended the approval to those with stage III disease.

The FDA approval on December 3 was based on first interim findings from the randomized, placebo-controlled KEYNOTE-716 trial, which evaluated patients with stage IIB and IIC disease. 

Since the anti-PD-1 therapy was approved in metastatic melanoma 7 years ago, "we have built on this foundation in melanoma and have expanded the use of KEYTRUDA into earlier stages of this disease," said Scot Ebbinghaus, MD, vice president, clinical research, Merck Research Laboratories, in a press release. "With today’s approval, we can now offer healthcare providers and patients 12 years and older the opportunity to help prevent melanoma recurrence with Keytruda across resected stage IIB, stage IIC and stage III melanoma."

In KEYNOTE-716, patients with completely resected stage IIB or IIC melanoma were randomly assigned to receive 200 mg of intravenous pembrolizumab, or the pediatric dose 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) every 3 weeks or placebo for up to 1 year until disease recurrence or unacceptable toxicity.

After a median follow-up of 14.4 months, investigators reported a statistically significant 35% improvement in recurrence-free survival (RFS) in those treated with pembrolizumab, compared with those who received placebo (hazard ratio, 0.65).

The most common adverse reactions reported in patients receiving pembrolizumab in KEYNOTE-716 were fatigue, diarrhea, pruritus, and arthralgia, each occurring in at least 20% of patients.

"Early identification and management of immune-mediated adverse reactions are essential to ensure safe use of Keytruda," according to Merck.

Sharon Worcester is an award-winning medical journalist at MDedge News, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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