FDA approves pembrolizumab for sorafenib-intolerant HCC patients


The Food and Drug Administration has approved pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for the treatment of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who were previously treated with sorafenib.

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Approval was based on results of KEYNOTE-224, a single-arm, open-label, multicenter trial evaluating pembrolizumab in a group of 104 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who were either intolerant to or had disease progression with sorafenib, according to a company press release.

The objective response rate was 17%, with a complete response rate of 1% and a partial response rate of 16%. In responding patients, 89% had a response duration of at least 6 months, and 56% had a response duration of at least 12 months.

Adverse events were generally similar to those seen in trials of patients with melanoma or non–small cell lung cancer, and included pneumonitis, colitis, hepatitis, endocrinopathies, nephritis, severe skin reactions, solid organ transplant rejection, and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation complications.

“Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer in adults, and while we have seen recent therapeutic advancements, there are still limited treatment options for advanced recurrent disease. Today’s approval of Keytruda is important, as it provides a new treatment option for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who have been previously treated with sorafenib,” Andrew X. Zhu, MD, lead investigator and director of liver cancer research at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, said in the press release.

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