Keytruda Increases Survival of Lung Cancer Patients, Compared with Standard Chemo, Update Shows

Keytruda Increases Survival of Lung Cancer Patients, Compared with Standard Chemo, Update Shows

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) reduced the risk of non-small cell lung cancer patients dying by 37 percent, compared with standard chemotherapy, according to updated information from a Phase 3 clinical trial.

Sixty-one percent of the patients who received Keytruda were still alive after 18 months, versus 43 percent in the standard chemo group.

The therapy also halved the risk that the disease would progress after a patient started a second line of treatment, the update indicated.

Merck said the findings from the KEYNOTE-024 trial demonstrated Keytruda’s superiority over standard chemo as a first-line treatment for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express high levels of the PD-L1 protein. Expression is the process by which information from a gene is used to create a functional product like a protein.

The company presented the findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, June 2-6. The title of the presentation was “Progression after the next line of therapy (PFS2) and updated OS among patients (pts) with advanced NSCLC and PD-L1 tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥50% enrolled in KEYNOTE-024.

Keytruda is an anti-PD-1 antibody designed to rev up a patient’s immune response against cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it as a first-line of therapy for NSCLC October 2016, and the European Medicines Agency in February 2017.

“From the start of the Keytruda program in non-small cell lung cancer, one of our goals has been to demonstrate the value of Keytruda monotherapy in appropriate patient populations,” Dr. Roger Dansey, senior vice president of Merck Research Laboratories, said in a press release.

“With updated data from KEYNOTE-024, as well as from other studies in our clinical development program, we are establishing the role of Keytruda in the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer,” he added.

Preliminary results from the KEYNOTE-024 (NCT02142738) trial supported the regulatory agencies’ approvals of the drug. The additional results came from eight months of follow-up on Keytruda’s effectiveness.

The trial covered 305 patients with squamous and non-squamous NSCLC with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations. Patients were randomized to receive either Keytruda or a standard of care platinum-based chemotherapy.

Keytruda reduced the risk of a patient dying by 37 percent, compared with chemo. It also lowered by 52 percent the risk of the disease progressing after a patient started a second line of treatment — again, compared with standard chemotherapy.

Sixty-one percent of the patients who received Keytruda were alive after 18 months, versus 43 percent in the chemotherapy group.

The follow-up results, including improved overall survival, “give us further confidence in Keytruda as a first-line treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors express high levels of PD-L1,” said Professor Martin Reck, head of the department of thoracic oncology at LungenClinic Grosshansdorf in Germany.


  1. TERRY MAJOR says:


    • Deborah says:

      I am sorry. My husband was diagnosed 12/1/16 NO lung symptoms, period. A tremor in his hand, Thanksgiving, led me to take him to his PCP on Nov. 28, 16. He had his physical in Sept. 2016, passed with flying colors. Including labs. On the 28th of Nov, those labs all were normal. Doc thought he had a concussion, schedule MRI for 12/1/16. He had quit smoking yrs earlier, took up running, biking, even ran San Francisco half marathon.

      On Dec 1, 2016 at MRI, my husband’s brain was swollen 6 inches to the right. There was no midline, left. I had to take him immediately to ER at hospital, told not to stop red zone it. He had 18 lesions on his brain. 3 were huge. One especially, over left eye. That caused micro seizures. Dec 2, 2016, he had a biopsy, as it was discovered the night before, he had a less than 2 inch mass in right lung, which led to Stage 4, meaning entered blood stream. Dec 3, 2016, he started full head radiation. The biopsy, was to determine if he qualified for Keytruda. 6 weeks later, Jan. 27, 2017, was first infusion of Keytruda. His lungs btw were pink, from quitting smoking years earlier. The 6 weeks of full radiation knocked out his taste and sense of smell.

      The first Keytruda infusion, started working that night. He sense of smell began to return. Prior to, he looked like he was 9 months pregnant. He had to be drained every 72 hours. Pulling off 4,000 ccs of fluid. Keytruda worked! He had to get use to the diarrhea, itchy, etc. heat is a huge enemy. Zapping any energy. However, after 17 months on Keytruda, one node, that had shrunk and stabilized, began to regrow. He starts full chemo. I have no idea nor does the doc, why? Except I broke my hip, in a freak accident, in January, and I begged him to rest, eat, etc. but he insisted on sleeping on the floor next to my hospital bed downstairs. I was fearful, his stress and not taking care of himself, would cause him to lose ground. One thing to note: Since 12/1/2016, his brain cleared 100%. There were no new grows. Some even went away, others shrunk. Others shrunk then stabilized. The reason he starts on chemo, is one started to regrow. DO NOT be afraid of Keytruda. Except for blistering summer, 2017, we went to concerts, as recent as June 5, 2018. Gods Speed!

      • Frishta Grande says:

        Thank you so much for sharing. I’m a single mom to a young 6 year old and I have always been a nonsmoker and I have lung cancer. This is the second time I have had it and I’m getting ready to start katruda this week. I fear it won’t be strong enough to kill the cancer since I’m stage 3 and it has spread to my lymph nodes in several areas. I feel like it keeps growing with the amount of stress I’m under. I recently lost my home due to a fire and I’m always worn out and trying o compensate for giving my girl a good summer even though I’m drained daily. I will pray for you and your husband to have a full recovery so he can go back to his healthy lifestyle he led before. I too have always been active and I’m not sure what I do to keep getting it but I must have more faith in the lord and ask for his guidance and serenity during these tribulous times.

  2. Thereza Kelly says:

    My husband have Thymic/lung cancer after chemo treatment, his tumor grew .8cm, after 9weeks on Keytruda his tumor shrank 2 cm he started his second false of the treatment.
    We are very hopefull.

  3. Mike Pruitt says:

    I am currently taking Pembrolizumab aka Keytruda for stage 4 Melanoma in both my lungs. Iv had 6 prior surgeries all in my left leg including Lymphnodes since my diagnosis in 2008. Now its in my lungs. I pray Keytruda shrinks these bastards (2.4cm is biggest one) ill do my 2nd infuse this week…mild side effects so far, my tattoos are raising up & bubbly like brail haha..

    • Deborah says:

      Actually, Keytruda, helps engage ones immune system. However, cancer is “smart” as I have been told over and over. Cells will cloak, and hide amongst valid cells. It is still called, chemo. As in, pre-chemo labs. Within 72 hrs of infusion, labs MUST be checked, as it can knock out Thyroid etc. Additionally, one lab that is not standard, and caused him to wind up in the hospital July 3, 17 for 4 days, was a test to check cortisol levels. Senior oncologist wanted it done June 12, 2017. His doc felt it was not warranted. He was so weak, at 6″4 and 215, I was having to hold the straw, just so he would get fluids. I leaned hard on the his doctor. I knew this was NOT a normal part of the side effects, per se. By July 3, 17, I was taking him to the hospital, because by 5:00 p.m. He could not even keep sips of water down. Thankfully, I knew better than listen to a nurse saying, “tomorrow or Wednesday” you can bring him in for the blood work.” NO! I am taking him to the hospital. We arrived, he was in bad shape. That blood test, the director, whom I have known since the 90s, wanted when he called me at home June 11, 17, would have prevented the close call. Hydrocortisone, is a natural steroid. Unlike Prednisone, does not suppress the immune system. By the time my husband was triaged at the ER, He was vomiting sticky phlegm. Even two drops of water from those mouth moisturizers, pre surgery when a patient cannot drink before surgery, gagged him it. His weight: 185. Potassium, almost nil. This hospital in the Bay Area, works along side Stanford. While there, the “traveling” nurse, went to infuse potassium, without saline. That will burn, like acid up the vein. I never left his side, because basically, when one is sick, we are totally reliant on strangers, regardless if they are a nurse, doctor, etc. He was discharged on a Hydrocortisone. However, natural, it still needs to be tapered. The doctor did not order refills. I called Thursday, before Labor Day 17. No refills called in. He dose was to be 10 mg x a day. I saw he was going to run out, on Labor Day. He took his last one in the morning. We went to bed 10 p.m. By next morning, he was barely able to move. What was in his system, had been used up. Within 24 hrs of taking the last dose, quads burned, and he was so weak, I was back to holding the straw for him to drink. Later that day, and a stern conversation, he was put on, Hydrocortisone 10 mg x 2 a day. I found this medication, pivotal to his very life. It was one med, I follow, extremely carefully, so there is never a risk, of his running out. The blood test MUST be done 7 – 10 a.m. After waking. No fasting is required. It takes a couple days to result. It is NOT part of the usual labs, taken within 72 hrs pre Keytruda infusion. Be PRO ACTIVE. Listen, listen, research, ASK. On Feb 17, 17, he was losing weight, barely able to consume most days, 200 calories. He’s starting weight, at time of first Keytruda infusion, was 260 a month earlier. Then he plunged to, 230. We saw his doc, pre chemo 2/14/17. I told him, he was weak, needed to have IV nutrition. Instead, he put him on a anti depressants. There was suppose to be an appetite stimulant in it. What he failed to say, but I asked, it took 2 weeks to even begin to work. A Doctor of Oncology Pharmaceutical told me, he needed something, immediate. To go to a medical marijuana clinic and get him oils, or edibles, to stimulate his appetite. There is one by a pharmaceutical company, but my husband’s doctor wanted to wait! I made the argument, “How can the immune system engage, if he cannot eat?” I went, bought him, edible marijuana, which stimulated it. With the side effects of Keytruda, one being diarrhea, his weight dropped more. Keytruda, is a true blessing. As the director informed me on June 11, 17, “we know the side effects of chemo. But, with Keytruda, we are still learning. One thing is, what labs read on Monday, does not mean they stay stationary. They can change within 24 hrs.” Sadly, the one node, awoke, and after 17 months of shrinking, stabilizing, shrinking, stable. In one month, it began growing.

  4. Diane says:

    I am taking Keytruda for non small cell lung cancer. I also have congestive heart failure however I am doing alright with it so far.

  5. Matthew Billo says:

    I was told I had stage 4 lunge cancer about a year ago. I was also told that I could use Keytruda due to the type of cancer I had. Well I did 3 Cemo’s each 21 days apart and started taking Keytruda with the 2nd and 3rd cemo sessions and continued with Keytruda every 21 days for nine months. They radiated my lung 5 times as the initial tumor did shrink by 75% but later showed activity. I just had a pet scan and my Doctor in formed me that there are no detectable cancers in my body. I would like to inform anyone taking Keytruda do not smoke as you will have shortness of breath and breathing problems. If you cannot quit smoke no more a few a day. Good luck!

  6. Jerry says:

    Passed you on what date were you diagnosed with lung cancer I was diagnosed on in December 2017 and I am also receiving keytrua how are you doing with it

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