Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced that the U.S. FDA has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy, for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL). This is the fourth Breakthrough Therapy Designation granted for KEYTRUDA.
“Merck has launched an ambitious clinical development program examining the efficacy of KEYTRUDA in a broad range of solid and blood cancers, and our studies of relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma are quite promising,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “The FDA’s Breakthrough Designation for this blood cancer provides an important mechanism to assist us in bringing this immunotherapy to patients who could benefit from its use.”
The FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy Designation is intended to expedite the development and review of a candidate that is planned for use, alone or in combination, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition when preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. KEYTRUDA was previously granted breakthrough status for specific patients with advanced melanoma, advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and advanced colorectal cancer.
The Breakthrough Therapy Designation in cHL is based on data from the ongoing Phase 1b KEYNOTE-013 and Phase 2 KEYNOTE-087 studies evaluating single agent KEYTRUDA in patients with cHL. Findings from the KEYNOTE-013 study were presented at the 2015 American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and data from KEYNOTE-087 will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting.
The KEYTRUDA clinical development program includes patients with more than 30 tumor types in more than 250 clinical trials, including more than 100 trials that combine KEYTRUDA with other cancer treatments. Registration-enabling trials of KEYTRUDA are currently enrolling patients in melanoma, NSCLC, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, gastric cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and other tumors, with further trials in planning for other cancers.
About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Injection 100 mg
KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA 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.
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express PD-L1 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. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not yet been established. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.
KEYTRUDA is administered at a dose of 2 mg/kg as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the approved indications.
About Hodgkin Lymphoma
Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from the body and produces immune cells. Lymphoma cells are abnormal lymphocytes which multiply and collect in the lymph nodes and other tissues. Normal lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that fight infection. Hodgkin lymphoma (also called Hodgkin disease) is a specific type of lymphoma and includes two subtypes: classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) and nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. In 2016, it is estimated that more than 8,500 people will be diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the U.S. alone and cHL accounts for 95 percent of all Hodgkin lymphoma cases.