Merck's (MRK) KEYTRUDA sBLA in NSCLC Accepted for FDA Priority Review

September 7, 2016 6:48 AM EDT

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Merck (NYSE: MRK) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted for Priority Review the supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy, for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express PD-L1, with a PDUFA, or target action, date of Dec. 24, 2016. Additionally, the FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for this indication. Merck has also submitted a Marketing Authorization Application to the European Medicines Agency for this indication.

The submissions were based on data from the pivotal phase 3 KEYNOTE-024 study, which showed that KEYTRUDA monotherapy resulted in superior progression-free survival (PFS) as well as overall survival (OS) compared with standard chemotherapy in patients with advanced NSCLC whose tumors expressed high levels of PD-L1 (tumor proportion score of 50 percent or more). Based on the results, the trial was stopped early to give patients still on chemotherapy the opportunity to receive KEYTRUDA. Merck filed for approval of KEYTRUDA in the first-line setting at a dose of 200 mg every three weeks, the dose studied in KEYNOTE-024.

“Chemotherapy has been the foundation of first-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer for decades, so the significant improvement in survival in patients with high PD-L1 expression seen with KEYTRUDA compared to chemotherapy is welcome news,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with regulatory authorities to make KEYTRUDA a first-line treatment option in non-small cell lung cancer.”

The FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy Designation is intended to expedite the availability of promising new therapies that are planned for use, alone or in combination, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition when preliminary clinical evidence indicates substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. Merck previously announced that KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) was granted breakthrough status for specific patients with advanced melanoma, metastatic NSCLC in previously treated patients, microsatellite instability high metastatic colorectal cancer, and relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin Lymphoma.

About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

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 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 use vial.

KEYTRUDA Indications and Dosing

Melanoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma at a dose of 2 mg/kg every three weeks.

Lung Cancer

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, at a dose of 2 mg/kg every three weeks. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations should have disease progression on FDA-approved therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab). 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. An sBLA is currently under review with the FDA for full approval of the existing second-line NSCLC indication. The application is based on data from KEYNOTE-010, a pivotal phase 2/3 confirmatory trial which demonstrated improved survival with KEYTRUDA compared to standard chemotherapy in previously treated patients with advanced NSCLC who had PD-L1 expression on one percent or more of the cancer cells. The FDA target action date is Oct. 24, 2016.

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 at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks. 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.

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

Immune-mediated pneumonitis occurred in 19 (3.5%) of 550 patients, including Grade 2 (1.1%), 3 (1.3%), 4 (0.4%), or 5 (0.2%) pneumonitis and occurred more frequently in patients with a history of asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (5.4%) or prior thoracic radiation (6.0%). 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.

Immune-mediated colitis occurred in 4 (0.7%) of 550 patients, including Grade 2 (0.2%) or 3 (0.4%) 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.

Immune-mediated hepatitis occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. 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.

Hypophysitis occurred in 1 (0.2%) of 550 patients, which was Grade 3 in severity. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency). Administer corticosteroids and hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3 or 4 hypophysitis.

Hyperthyroidism occurred in 10 (1.8%) of 550 patients, including Grade 2 (0.7%) or 3 (0.3%) hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurred in 38 (6.9%) of 550 patients, including Grade 2 (5.5%) or 3 (0.2%) hypothyroidism. Thyroid disorders can occur at any time during treatment. 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.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic ketoacidosis, occurred in 3 (0.1%) of 2117 patients. Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes, and withhold KEYTRUDA and administer anti-hyperglycemics in patients with severe hyperglycemia.

Immune-mediated nephritis occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. 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.

Other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions can occur. 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% of 550 patients: rash, vasculitis, hemolytic anemia, serum sickness, and myasthenia gravis.

Severe and life-threatening infusion-related reactions have been reported in 3 (0.1%) of 2117 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 (pembrolizumab).

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 was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 14% of 550 patients. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 38% of patients. The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in at least 2% of patients were pleural effusion, pneumonia, dyspnea, pulmonary embolism and pneumonitis. The most common adverse reactions (reported in at least 20% of patients) were fatigue (44%), cough (29%), decreased appetite (25%), and dyspnea (23%).

It is not known whether KEYTRUDA 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.

Safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA have not been established in pediatric patients.



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