FDA approves pembrolizumab for first-line stage III NSCLC


The Food and Drug Administration has approved pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for the first-line treatment of patients with stage III non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who are not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation, and for stage IV NSCLC.

FDA icon

Patients’ tumors must express programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) as determined by an FDA-approved test (tumor proportion score ≥1%) and have no epidermal growth factor receptor or anaplastic lymphoma kinase mutations.

The checkpoint inhibitor was previously approved as a single agent for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic disease with PD-L1 expression at a higher level (TPS ≥50%), the FDA said in a press statement.

Approval was based on statistically significant overall survival improvement with pembrolizumab, compared with investigator’s choice of a carboplatin-containing regimen with either pemetrexed or paclitaxel in KEYNOTE‑042. The trial enrolled 1,274 patients with stage III or IV NSCLC who had not received prior systemic treatment for metastatic NSCLC and whose tumors expressed PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%).

Overall survival was improved in all three subgroups for pembrolizumab, compared with chemotherapy: in the TPS ≥50% subgroup, the TPS ≥20% subgroup, and the overall population (TPS ≥1%). The median overall survival in the TPS ≥1% population was 16.7 for pembrolizumab and 12.1 months for the chemotherapy arms (hazard ratio, 0.81; 95% confidence interval, 0.71-0.93; P = .0036). For the TPS ≥50% subgroup, the estimated median overall survival was 20 months for pembrolizumab and 12.2 months for the chemotherapy arm (HR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.56-0.85; P = .0006).

The most common adverse reactions reported for patients who received pembrolizumab included fatigue, decreased appetite, dyspnea, cough, rash, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, hypothyroidism, pneumonia, pyrexia, and weight loss, the FDA said.

The recommended dose for NSCLC is 200 mg as an IV infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks.

Next Article: