Pembrolizumab Increases Overall Survival for PD-L1-positive, Advanced Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

A recent study examined the efficacy of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for the treatment of previously treated, PD-L1-positive, advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Study data indicate that pembrolizumab has a beneficial benefit-to-risk profile and increases overall survival time for patients.1

The researchers examined medical entries for 1034 patients from 202 medical centers. Patients were randomly assigned to receive pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg, pembrolizumab 10 mg/kg, or docetaxel 75 mg/m2 at 3-week intervals. Drug allocation was as follows: 345 to pembrolizumab 2 mg; 346 to pembrolizumab 10 mg; and 343 to docetaxel.

When treated with pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg, progression-free survival for patients with at least 50% of tumor cells expressing PD-L1 was greater than that with docetaxel (median 5.0 months vs. 4.1 months) and overall survival was also longer (median 14.9 months for pembrolizumab and 8.2 months for docetaxel).

In the whole population, median overall survival was recorded at 12.7 months with pembrolizumab 10 mg/kg, 10.4 months with pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg, and 8.5 months with docetaxel. Overall survival for the total population favored pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg over docetaxel (hazard ratio [HR] 0.71, 95% CI: 0.58-0.8) and for pembrolizumab 10 mg/kg vs. docetaxel (HR 0.61, 95% CI: 0.49-0.75).


1. Herbst RS, Baas P, Kim DW, et al. Pembrolizumab versus docetaxel for previously treated, PD-L1-positive, advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (KEYNOTE-101): a randomised controlled trial [published online ahead of print December 19, 2015]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0410-6736(15)01281-7.

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