Clinical Perspectives

Pembrolizumab Plus Chemotherapy in Metastatic Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer

May 01, 2018


Jhanelle Gray, MD, Physician Scientist in the Department of Thoracic Oncology
Jhanelle Gray, MD, Physician Scientist in the Department of Thoracic Oncology

Widely used anti-PD-1 immunotherapy drug Keytruda, or pembrolizumab, appears to be useful in a greater number of patients with lung cancer.

In patients with previously untreated metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without EGFR or ALK mutations, the addition of pembrolizumab to standard chemotherapy of pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug resulted in significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival than chemotherapy alone.  

Dr. Jhanelle Gray was one of the publishing authors of the findings of the international, Phase III clinical trial. Results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A total of 616 patients with untreated, metastatic NSNSCLC without oncodriver alterations, from 118 international sites, were randomly allocated for the trial — 405 patients were treated with both pembrolizumab and platinum + pemetrexed, and 202 received platinum + pemetrexed with a saline placebo.

Response rates, overall survival and progression-free survival rates were superior in the pembrolizumab and chemotherapy combination-treatment group.

Non-small cell lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer death, in part because in the majority of cases, the cancer has already spread at the time of diagnosis. Pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy is FDA-approved to treat these patients, based on a previous phase II trial.