On June 29, 2020, Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved KEYTRUDA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pembrolizumab), Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, as monotherapy for the first-line treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) colorectal cancer. The approval is based on results from the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-177 trial, in which KEYTRUDA significantly reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 40% (HR=0.60 [95% CI, 0.45-0.80; p=0.0004]) compared with chemotherapy, the current standard of care. In the study, treatment with KEYTRUDA also more than doubled median progression-free survival (PFS) compared with chemotherapy (16.5 months [95% CI, 5.4-32.4] versus 8.2 months [95% CI, 6.1-10.2]). “Today’s approval has the potential to change the treatment paradigm for the first-line treatment of patients with MSI-H colorectal cancer, based on the important findings from KEYNOTE-177 that showed KEYTRUDA monotherapy demonstrated superior progression-free survival compared to standard of care chemotherapy,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Clinical Development, Chief Medical Officer, Merck Research Laboratories. “Our commitment to pursuing biomarker research continues to help us bring new treatments to patients, particularly for those who have few available options.” Immune-mediated adverse reactions, which may be severe or fatal, can occur with KEYTRUDA, and these include pneumonitis, colitis, hepatitis, endocrinopathies, nephritis and renal dysfunction, severe skin reactions, solid organ transplant rejection, and complications of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).
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