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).

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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.