Updated Data from KEYNOTE-024 Show Continued Overall Survival Benefit of Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Compared to Chemotherapy in the First-Line Treatment of Patients with Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) with High Levels of PD-L1

Longer-Term Findings to Be Presented at 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting

Monday, June 5, 2017 7:30 am EDT

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KENILWORTH, N.J.

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"From the start of the KEYTRUDA program in non-small cell lung cancer, one of our goals has been to demonstrate the value of KEYTRUDA monotherapy in appropriate patient populations"

KENILWORTH, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced updated overall survival (OS) findings from KEYNOTE-024, the phase 3 study evaluating KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy, as a monotherapy compared to platinum-containing chemotherapy in the first-line treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express high levels of PD-L1 (tumor proportion score [TPS] of 50 percent or more). The study included patients with squamous and non-squamous NSCLC with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations and demonstrated a reduction in the risk of death by 37 percent for KEYTRUDA compared to chemotherapy based on 19 months of median follow-up (HR, 0.63 [95% CI, 0.46-0.88]; p = 0.003). Additionally, in an exploratory analysis, progression-free survival 2 (PFS2) – a clinical endpoint used to assess the impact of next-line treatment on disease control – was substantially improved for patients in the KEYTRUDA group compared to the chemotherapy group. These data are being presented in an oral session at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago on Tuesday, June 6, from 9:45 – 9:57 a.m. CDT (Location: Hall D1) (Abstract #9000).

With approximately eight additional months of follow-up, data showed continued OS benefit with KEYTRUDA over chemotherapy in the first-line treatment of patients with advanced NSCLC whose tumors expressed high levels of PD-L1 – showing an 18-month OS rate of 61.2 percent in the KEYTRUDA group compared to 43.0 percent in the chemotherapy group; the 12-month OS rate was 70.3 percent in the KEYTRUDA group compared to 54.8 percent in the chemotherapy group.

For PFS2, findings based on 19 months of median follow-up showed a 46 percent reduction in the risk of progression after the start of the second-line regimen or death in patients initially randomized to KEYTRUDA compared to patients initially randomized to chemotherapy (HR, 0.54 [95% CI, 0.40-0.72]; p < 0.001]).

“From the start of the KEYTRUDA program in non-small cell lung cancer, one of our goals has been to demonstrate the value of KEYTRUDA monotherapy in appropriate patient populations,” said Dr. Roger Dansey, senior vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology late-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. “With updated data from KEYNOTE-024, as well as from other studies in our clinical development program, we are establishing the role of KEYTRUDA in the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer.”

Merck has a robust clinical development program for KEYTRUDA in lung cancer, with multiple registration-enabling studies currently underway. The KEYTRUDA clinical development program includes more than 30 tumor types in more than 500 clinical trials, including more than 300 trials that combine KEYTRUDA with other cancer treatments.

“These results from additional follow-up in KEYNOTE-024 – including improved overall survival despite significant crossover – give us further confidence in KEYTRUDA as a first-line treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors express high levels of PD-L1,” said Prof. Martin Reck, head of the department of thoracic oncology, LungenClinic Grosshansdorf, Germany.

Key Findings from the KEYNOTE-024 Study

KEYNOTE-024 is a randomized, phase 3 study of 305 patients with metastatic NSCLC who were assigned either KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) as monotherapy (n=154) or standard of care platinum-based chemotherapy (n=151). Enrollment criteria included: having no prior systemic chemotherapy treatment for their advanced disease, tumors without an EGFR sensitizing mutation or ALK translocation, and tumors expressing high levels of PD-L1 (TPS of 50 percent or more) as determined by a central laboratory using the Dako PD-L1 IHC 22C3 PharmDx test, from Agilent Technologies. The primary endpoint was progression-free survival (PFS) and the key secondary endpoint was OS. Other secondary endpoints include overall response rate (ORR) and safety. Exploratory endpoints include PFS2 and duration of response.

Data presented at ASCO are based on a median follow-up of 19.1 months (range: 14.3-27.6) and include findings from 79 patients who crossed over from the chemotherapy arm to receive KEYTRUDA, per study protocol, and 12 patients who received anti-PD-1 therapy outside of study crossover. Results show that KEYTRUDA maintained an OS benefit over chemotherapy in patients whose tumors expressed high levels of PD-L1 (TPS of 50 percent or more), with a 37 percent reduction in the risk of death (HR, 0.63 [95% CI, 0.46-0.88]; p = 0.003). The 12-month OS rate was 70.3 percent in the KEYTRUDA group compared to 54.8 percent in the chemotherapy group; at 18 months, the OS rate was 61.2 percent in the KEYTRUDA group compared to 43.0 percent in the chemotherapy group. The median OS had not yet been reached in the KEYTRUDA group (95% CI, 19.4-NE), compared to 14.5 months in the chemotherapy group (95% CI, 9.8-19.6).

In an exploratory analysis of PFS2 – a clinical endpoint used to assess the impact of next-line treatment on disease control – findings showed a 46 percent reduction in the risk of progression after initiation of the second-line regimen or death in patients initially randomized to KEYTRUDA compared to patients initially randomized to chemotherapy (HR, 0.54 [95% CI, 0.40-0.72]; p < 0.001]). The 12-month PFS2 rate was 59.7 percent in the KEYTRUDA group and 38.5 percent in the chemotherapy group; the 18-month PFS2 rate was 51.0 percent in the KEYTRUDA group and 24.6 percent in the chemotherapy group. The median PFS2 was 18.3 months in the KEYTRUDA group (95% CI, 12.7-NE) compared to 8.4 months in the chemotherapy group (95% CI, 6.8-9.8).

A safety analysis was not performed for this data set.

About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer, which forms in the tissues of the lungs, usually within cells lining the air passages, is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than die of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell and small cell. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for about 85 percent of all cases. The five-year survival rate for patients suffering from highly advanced, metastatic (Stage IV) lung cancers is estimated to be two percent.

About KEYTRUDA ® (pembrolizumab) Injection

KEYTRUDA is an anti-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.

Studies of KEYTRUDA – from the largest immuno-oncology program in the industry with more than 500 trials – include a wide variety of cancers and treatment settings. The KEYTRUDA clinical program seeks to understand factors that predict a patient’s likelihood of benefitting from treatment with KEYTRUDA, including the exploration of several different biomarkers across a broad range of tumors.

KEYTRUDA is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the approved indications. KEYTRUDA for injection is supplied in a 100 mg single-dose vial.

KEYTRUDA ® (pembrolizumab) Indications and Dosing

Melanoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

Lung Cancer

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have high PD-L1 expression [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥50%] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is also indicated for the treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors express PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations should have disease progression on FDA-approved therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA.

KEYTRUDA, in combination with pemetrexed and carboplatin, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and progression-free survival. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

In metastatic NSCLC, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

When administering KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy, KEYTRUDA should be administered prior to chemotherapy when given on the same day. See also the Prescribing Information for pemetrexed and carboplatin.

Head and Neck Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. In HNSCC, KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL), or who have relapsed after three or more prior lines of therapy. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. In adults with cHL, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. In pediatric patients with cHL, KEYTRUDA is administered at a dose of 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Urothelial Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma who are not eligible for cisplatin-containing chemotherapy. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and duration of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

KEYTRUDA is also indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy or within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy.

In locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Microsatellite Instability-High (MSI-H) Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with unresectable or metastatic microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR)

  • solid tumors that have progressed following prior treatment and who have no satisfactory alternative treatment options, or
  • colorectal cancer that has progressed following treatment with fluoropyrimidine, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan.

This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. The safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA in pediatric patients with MSI-H central nervous system cancers have not been established.

In adult patients with MSI-H cancer, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. In pediatric patients with MSI-H cancer, KEYTRUDA is administered at a dose of 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA ®  (pembrolizumab)

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis, including fatal cases. Pneumonitis occurred in 94 (3.4%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 1 (0.8%), 2 (1.3%), 3 (0.9%), 4 (0.3%), and 5 (0.1%) pneumonitis, and occurred more frequently in patients with a history of prior thoracic radiation (6.9%) compared to those without (2.9%). Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis. Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 or recurrent Grade 2 pneumonitis.

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated colitis. Colitis occurred in 48 (1.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.4%), 3 (1.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) colitis. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis.

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hepatitis. Hepatitis occurred in 19 (0.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.4%), and 4 (<0.1%) hepatitis. Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA.

KEYTRUDA can cause hypophysitis. Hypophysitis occurred in 17 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.2%), 3 (0.3%), and 4 (<0.1%) hypophysitis. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency). Administer corticosteroids and hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3 or 4 hypophysitis.

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) can cause thyroid disorders, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism occurred in 96 (3.4%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.8%) and 3 (0.1%) hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurred in 237 (8.5%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (6.2%) and 3 (0.1%) hypothyroidism. Thyroiditis occurred in 16 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.3%) thyroiditis. Monitor patients for changes in thyroid function (at the start of treatment, periodically during treatment, and as indicated based on clinical evaluation) and for clinical signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders. Administer replacement hormones for hypothyroidism and manage hyperthyroidism with thionamides and beta-blockers as appropriate. Withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 hyperthyroidism.

KEYTRUDA can cause type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic ketoacidosis, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients. Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes, and withhold KEYTRUDA and administer antihyperglycemics in patients with severe hyperglycemia.

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated nephritis. Nephritis occurred in 9 (0.3%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) nephritis. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.

KEYTRUDA can cause other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions. These immune-mediated reactions may occur in any organ system. For suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, ensure adequate evaluation to confirm etiology or exclude other causes. Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, withhold KEYTRUDA and administer corticosteroids. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Based on limited data from clinical studies in patients whose immune-related adverse reactions could not be controlled with corticosteroid use, administration of other systemic immunosuppressants can be considered. Resume KEYTRUDA when the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or less following corticosteroid taper. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any Grade 3 immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.

The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% (unless otherwise indicated) of 2799 patients: arthritis (1.5%), exfoliative dermatitis, bullous pemphigoid, rash (1.4%), uveitis, myositis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, myasthenia gravis, vasculitis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, and partial seizures arising in a patient with inflammatory foci in brain parenchyma. In addition, myelitis and myocarditis were reported in other clinical trials, including classical Hodgkin lymphoma, and postmarketing use.

Solid organ transplant rejection has been reported in postmarketing use of KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab). Treatment with KEYTRUDA may increase the risk of rejection in solid organ transplant recipients. Consider the benefit of treatment with KEYTRUDA vs the risk of possible organ rejection in these patients.

KEYTRUDA can cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions, including hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions, including rigors, chills, wheezing, pruritus, flushing, rash, hypotension, hypoxemia, and fever. For Grade 3 or 4 reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.

Immune-mediated complications, including fatal events, occurred in patients who underwent allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) after being treated with KEYTRUDA. Of 23 patients with cHL who proceeded to allogeneic HSCT after treatment with KEYTRUDA on any trial, 6 patients (26%) developed graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), one of which was fatal, and 2 patients (9%) developed severe hepatic veno-occlusive disease (VOD) after reduced-intensity conditioning, one of which was fatal. Cases of fatal hyperacute GVHD after allogeneic HSCT have also been reported in patients with lymphoma who received a PD-1 receptor–blocking antibody before transplantation. These complications may occur despite intervening therapy between PD-1 blockade and allogeneic HSCT. Follow patients closely for early evidence of transplant-related complications such as hyperacute GVHD, severe (Grade 3 to 4) acute GVHD, steroid-requiring febrile syndrome, hepatic VOD, and other immune-mediated adverse reactions, and intervene promptly.

Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. If used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant during treatment, apprise the patient of the potential hazard to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use highly effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months after the last dose of KEYTRUDA.

KEYTRUDA monotherapy was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 8% of 682 patients with metastatic NSCLC. The most common adverse event resulting in permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA was pneumonitis (1.8%). Adverse reactions leading to interruption of KEYTRUDA occurred in 23% of patients; the most common (≥1%) were diarrhea (1%), fatigue (1.3%), pneumonia (1%), liver enzyme elevation (1.2%), decreased appetite (1.3%), and pneumonitis (1%). The most common adverse reactions (occurring in at least 20% of patients and at a higher incidence than with docetaxel) were decreased appetite (25% vs 23%), dyspnea (23% vs 20%), and nausea (20% vs 18%).

It is not known whether KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, instruct women to discontinue nursing during treatment with KEYTRUDA and for 4 months after the final dose.

Our Focus on Cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck, helping people fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer.

As part of our focus on cancer, Merck is committed to exploring the potential of immuno-oncology with one of the fastest-growing development programs in the industry. We are currently executing an expansive research program that includes more than 500 clinical trials evaluating our anti-PD-1 therapy across more than 30 tumor types. We also continue to strengthen our immuno-oncology portfolio through strategic acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising immunotherapeutic candidates with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers.

For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.

About Merck

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world - including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on TwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube and LinkedIn.

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# # #

Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at  http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_pi.pdf  and

Patient Information/Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at  http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_mg.pdf .

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