Merck Announces KEYLYNK-008 Trial Evaluating KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Plus LYNPARZA® (olaparib) for Patients With Metastatic Squamous Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer to Stop for Futility

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RAHWAY, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, today announced that it will stop the Phase 3 KEYLYNK-008 trial evaluating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with maintenance LYNPARZA, a PARP inhibitor, for the treatment of patients with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Merck is discontinuing the study based on the recommendation of an independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC), which reviewed data from a planned interim analysis (IA3). At the interim analysis 3, KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy followed by KEYTRUDA plus LYNPARZA did not demonstrate an improvement in overall survival (OS), one of the study’s dual primary endpoints, compared to KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy followed by KEYTRUDA plus placebo.

The study’s other dual primary endpoint, progression-free survival (PFS), was not statistically significant at the second interim analysis, but there was a numerical improvement compared to the control arm. The safety profile in this trial was consistent with that observed in previously reported studies for the individual therapies and no new safety signals were identified. Merck will inform study investigators of the recommendation from the DMC and advise patients in the study to speak to their physician regarding treatment. Data from this study will be presented at an upcoming scientific congress.

“While there have been significant scientific advancements in lung cancer research in recent years, unmet needs remain for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer,” said Dr. Marjorie Green, senior vice president and head of late-stage oncology, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “We sincerely thank the patients and investigators for their participation in this study, and we will continue to advance our clinical development program to evaluate KEYTRUDA-based combinations and novel candidates for patients with lung cancer.”

Merck has an extensive clinical development program in lung cancer and is advancing multiple registration-enabling studies, with research directed at earlier stages of disease and novel combinations. Key studies evaluating KEYTRUDA-based combinations in NSCLC include KEYLYNK-006, KEYLYNK-012, KEYVIBE-003, KEYVIBE-006 and KEYVIBE-007.

About KEYLYNK-008

KEYLYNK-008 is a randomized, triple-blind, Phase 3 trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03976362) evaluating KEYTRUDA in combination with chemotherapy (carboplatin plus paclitaxel or nab-paclitaxel) followed by KEYTRUDA plus maintenance LYNPARZA for the first-line treatment of metastatic squamous NSCLC. The dual primary endpoints are PFS per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors version 1.1 (RECIST v1.1) by blinded independent central review (BICR) and OS. The secondary endpoints include safety and health-related quality of life assessments. The trial enrolled an estimated 857 patients. In the Induction Phase, patients received KEYTRUDA (200 mg intravenously [IV] every three weeks for four cycles) in combination with carboplatin plus either paclitaxel or nab-paclitaxel every three weeks. In the Maintenance Phase, patients with a partial or complete response or with stable disease after completing four cycles of induction therapy were randomized to receive KEYTRUDA (200 mg IV every three weeks for up to 31 cycles) plus maintenance LYNPARZA (300 mg orally twice daily) or maintenance placebo until progressive disease, physician decision or intolerable toxicity.

About lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. In 2020 alone, there were more than 2.2 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths from lung cancer globally. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer in the U.S., accounting for about 81% of all cases. In the U.S., the overall five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with lung cancer is 26.2%, which is a 22% improvement over the last five years. Improved survival rates are due, in part, to earlier detection and screening, reduction in smoking, advances in diagnostic and surgical procedures, as well as the introduction of new therapies. Early detection and screening remain an important unmet need, as 44% of lung cancer cases are not found until they are advanced. Only 4.5% of people in the U.S. who are eligible were screened for lung cancer in 2022.

About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) injection, 100 mg

KEYTRUDA is an anti-programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) therapy that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD- L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells.

Merck has the industry’s largest immuno-oncology clinical research program. There are currently more than 1,600 trials studying KEYTRUDA across a wide variety of cancers and treatment settings. The KEYTRUDA clinical program seeks to understand the role of KEYTRUDA across cancers and the factors that may predict a patient's likelihood of benefitting from treatment with KEYTRUDA, including exploring several different biomarkers.

Selected KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Indications in the U.S.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.

KEYTRUDA, in combination with carboplatin and either paclitaxel or paclitaxel protein-bound, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic squamous NSCLC.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with NSCLC expressing PD-L1 [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥1%] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations, and is:

  • stage III where patients are not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation, or
  • metastatic.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors express PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations should have disease progression on FDA-approved therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA.

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with resectable (tumors ≥4 cm or node positive) NSCLC in combination with platinum-containing chemotherapy as neoadjuvant treatment, and then continued as a single agent as adjuvant treatment after surgery.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated as adjuvant treatment following resection and platinum-based chemotherapy for adult patients with Stage IB (T2a ≥4 cm), II, or IIIA NSCLC.

See additional selected indications for KEYTRUDA in the U.S. after the Selected Important Safety Information

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA

Severe and Fatal Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions

KEYTRUDA is a monoclonal antibody that belongs to a class of drugs that bind to either the PD-1 or the PD-L1, blocking the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway, thereby removing inhibition of the immune response, potentially breaking peripheral tolerance and inducing immune-mediated adverse reactions. Immune-mediated adverse reactions, which may be severe or fatal, can occur in any organ system or tissue, can affect more than one body system simultaneously, and can occur at any time after starting treatment or after discontinuation of treatment. Important immune-mediated adverse reactions listed here may not include all possible severe and fatal immune-mediated adverse reactions.

Monitor patients closely for symptoms and signs that may be clinical manifestations of underlying immune-mediated adverse reactions. Early identification and management are essential to ensure safe use of anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatments. Evaluate liver enzymes, creatinine, and thyroid function at baseline and periodically during treatment. For patients with TNBC treated with KEYTRUDA in the neoadjuvant setting, monitor blood cortisol at baseline, prior to surgery, and as clinically indicated. In cases of suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, initiate appropriate workup to exclude alternative etiologies, including infection. Institute medical management promptly, including specialty consultation as appropriate.

Withhold or permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA depending on severity of the immune-mediated adverse reaction. In general, if KEYTRUDA requires interruption or discontinuation, administer systemic corticosteroid therapy (1 to 2 mg/kg/day prednisone or equivalent) until improvement to Grade 1 or less. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Consider administration of other systemic immunosuppressants in patients whose adverse reactions are not controlled with corticosteroid therapy.

Immune-Mediated Pneumonitis

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis. The incidence is higher in patients who have received prior thoracic radiation. Immune-mediated pneumonitis occurred in 3.4% (94/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including fatal (0.1%), Grade 4 (0.3%), Grade 3 (0.9%), and Grade 2 (1.3%) reactions. Systemic corticosteroids were required in 67% (63/94) of patients. Pneumonitis led to permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 1.3% (36) and withholding in 0.9% (26) of patients. All patients who were withheld reinitiated KEYTRUDA after symptom improvement; of these, 23% had recurrence. Pneumonitis resolved in 59% of the 94 patients.

Pneumonitis occurred in 8% (31/389) of adult patients with cHL receiving KEYTRUDA as a single agent, including Grades 3-4 in 2.3% of patients. Patients received high-dose corticosteroids for a median duration of 10 days (range: 2 days to 53 months). Pneumonitis rates were similar in patients with and without prior thoracic radiation. Pneumonitis led to discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 5.4% (21) of patients. Of the patients who developed pneumonitis, 42% interrupted KEYTRUDA, 68% discontinued KEYTRUDA, and 77% had resolution.

Pneumonitis occurred in 7% (41/580) of adult patients with resected NSCLC who received KEYTRUDA as a single agent for adjuvant treatment of NSCLC, including fatal (0.2%), Grade 4 (0.3%), and Grade 3 (1%) adverse reactions. Patients received high-dose corticosteroids for a median duration of 10 days (range: 1 day to 2.3 months). Pneumonitis led to discontinuation of KEYTRUDA in 26 (4.5%) of patients. Of the patients who developed pneumonitis, 54% interrupted KEYTRUDA, 63% discontinued KEYTRUDA, and 71% had resolution.

Immune-Mediated Colitis

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated colitis, which may present with diarrhea. Cytomegalovirus infection/reactivation has been reported in patients with corticosteroid-refractory immune-mediated colitis. In cases of corticosteroid-refractory colitis, consider repeating infectious workup to exclude alternative etiologies. Immune-mediated colitis occurred in 1.7% (48/2799) of patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 4 (

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