Merck drug Keytruda succeeds in late-stage esophageal cancer trial

Reuters Health Information: Merck drug Keytruda succeeds in late-stage esophageal cancer trial

Merck drug Keytruda succeeds in late-stage esophageal cancer trial

Last Updated: 2018-11-14

By Reuters Staff

(Reuters) - Merck & Co's blockbuster drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) met the main goal of the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-181 trial testing the treatment in patients with advanced esophageal or esophagogastric junction carcinoma whose tumors express PD-L1, the U.S. drugmaker said on Wednesday.

Keytruda, among a class of medicines called PD-1 inhibitors, is Merck's top selling drug and has already been approved to treat several forms of cancer including skin and lung cancer.

Keytruda, when compared to chemotherapy, enabled patients whose tumors express PD-L1 with a Combined Positive Score of 10 or greater to live longer, helping the drug meet the main goal of the late-stage study, Merck said.

"The key secondary endpoints of progression-free survival and objective response rate were not formally tested, as OS was not reached in the full intent-to-treat study population," Merck said in a press release.

"This marks the sixth tumor type where Keytruda has demonstrated a survival benefit, and represents the first time an anti-PD-1 therapy has achieved overall survival for this patient population," said Roy Baynes, chief medical officer of Merck Research Laboratories.

Merck said trial results would be presented at an upcoming medical meeting.

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