Pembrolizumab Benefits Advanced Melanoma Patients Regardless of Prior Treatments

Overall 3-year survival in patients with advanced melanoma taking pembrolizumab was 40%.

A long-term follow-up from KEYNOTE-001, a phase 1b trial, found that among previously treated patients with advanced melanoma, 40% were alive 3 years after starting treatment with pembrolizumab, according to a study that will be presented at the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting.

Pembrolizumab was approved in 2014 for the treatment of advanced melanoma based on findings from KEYNOTE-001. There was also a survival benefit with pembrolizumab compared with chemotherapy or ipilimumab treatment.

There were 655 patients with advanced melanoma included in the study and 75% were pretreated. Patients were treated with 2 mg/kg of pembrolizumab every 3 weeks until disease progression, toxicity, or researcher decision.

Patients treated with pembrolizumab had a 3-year overall survival rate of 40%. However, prior treatments did vary the survival rates slightly. Survival among patients who had not been previously treated was 45%.

Patients who received ipilimumab as prior treatment and those who received another treatment had a survival rate of 41%. Approximately 9% of patients stopped treatment after a complete response was achieved and 97% of those patients remained in remission, according to the study.

Of these patients in remission, they remained in remission for an average of 10 months and ongoing. Researchers said that it is difficult to make any definitive conclusions, but their findings suggest a survival benefit from pembrolizumab.

“Advanced melanoma is still a very challenging cancer, which is why it is so remarkable that such a large proportion of patients see a long-term survival benefit from this therapy,” said lead study author Caroline Robert, MD, PhD. “The results of this study further demonstrate the potential for long-term benefit with pembrolizumab.”