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MSD's Keytruda combo therapy significantly improves survival in advanced renal cell carcinoma

Published on 18/02/19 at 10:17am

Merck & Co’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in combination with Pfizer’s Inlyta (axitinib) significantly extended the lives of those with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and delayed disease progression and death according to the results of a Phase 3 clinical trial.

The combo outperformed Pfizer’s Sutent – the current standard of care first line treatment for advanced RCC patients.

“This marks the first time that combination treatment with an anti-PD-1 therapy has achieved the dual primary endpoints of overall survival and progression-free survival as first-line therapy in advanced renal cell carcinoma,” said Dr Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories.

“Fewer than 10 percent of those diagnosed with advanced renal cell carcinoma survive for five years, and hence there is significant need for improved therapies for this disease. We are very grateful to the investigators and patients for their involvement in this important study, the results of which will be filed with global regulatory authorities in the near future.”

MSD’s immunotherapy Keytruda works by heightening the immune system’s abilities to detect and fight tumour cells. Meanwhile Pfizer’s Inlyta is a protein inhibitor that blocks the signals which helps cancer cells to grow and replicate.

Amrita Gujral, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, commented: “Current renal cell carcinoma treatments have led to an improvement in survival rates, although patients with metastatic disease still have a 5 year survival rate of less than 10%, hence prognosis is poor. This new first line targeted therapy promises to offer a treatment option which can help to improve this low survival rate figure.

“The trial showed an increased 12 month overall survival rate by 11.6%, a reduction in the risk of death by 47%, an increased overall response rate by 23.6% and  increased progression free survival rate by 4 months when given in place of the current standard of treatment, Pfizer’s Sutent.”

“Although this novel treatment option has a higher rate of treatment-related adverse events, 62.9%, in comparison to the current treatment option Sutent, 58.1%, it did not result in higher discontinuation rates within the trial. The novel treatment options involves patients attending bi-weekly for an IV infusion, allowing healthcare professionals to monitor patients more frequently than those taking Sutent who are seen on a monthly basis. Therefore, patients may have felt their adverse events were being managed more proactively and efficiently whilst participating in this trial.”   

Louis Goss

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