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European Commission Approves KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) for Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma Who Failed Autologous Stem Cell Transplant and Brentuximab Vedotin (BV), or Who are Transplant-Ineligible and Have Failed BV

KENILWORTH, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced that the European Commission has approved KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy, for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) who have failed autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) and brentuximab vedotin (BV), or who are transplant-ineligible and have failed BV. The approval allows marketing of KEYTRUDA in all 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, at the approved dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

“Today’s approval brings an important new treatment option to patients in Europe with classical Hodgkin lymphoma who have not responded to existing therapies,” said Dr. Roger Dansey, senior vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology late-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. “This milestone underscores our commitment to evaluating KEYTRUDA in diseases with unmet need facing the hematology community.”

“For patients with classical Hodgkin lymphoma who have not been successfully treated with prior therapies – many of whom are young and have a poor prognosis – there are limited options and treating the disease poses significant challenges,” said Pier Luigi Zinzani, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of hematology, Institute of Hematology “L. e A. Seràgnoli,” University of Bologna. “With this approval, we will now be able to provide these patients with a much-needed new treatment option.”

Data Supporting the Approval

The approval was based on data in 241 patients from the KEYNOTE-087 and KEYNOTE-013 trials. These multicenter, open-label studies evaluated patients with cHL who failed ASCT and BV, who were ineligible for ASCT because they were unable to achieve a complete or partial remission after salvage chemotherapy and failed BV, or who failed ASCT and did not receive BV. Both studies included patients regardless of PD-L1 expression. Patients with active, non-infectious pneumonitis, an allogeneic transplant within the past five years (or more than five years but with graft-versus-host-disease [GVHD]), active autoimmune disease or a medical condition that required immunosuppression were ineligible for either trial. The major efficacy outcome measures, overall response rate (ORR) and complete remission rate (CRR), were assessed by blinded independent central review according to the 2007 revised International Working Group (IWG) criteria. Secondary efficacy outcome measures were duration of response, progression-free survival, and overall survival.

In KEYNOTE-087, 210 patients received KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at a dose of 200 mg every three weeks until unacceptable toxicity or documented disease progression. Eighty-one percent of patients were refractory to at least one prior therapy, including 35 percent who were refractory to first-line therapy. Additionally, 61 percent of patients had undergone prior ASCT, 38 percent were transplant ineligible; 17 percent had no prior BV use and 36 percent of patients had prior radiation therapy. Efficacy analysis showed an ORR of 69 percent (95% CI: 62.3, 75.2) with a CRR of 22 percent and a partial remission rate (PRR) of 47 percent. The median follow-up time was 10.1 months. Among the 145 responding patients, the median duration of response was 11.1 months (range 0.0+ to 11.1), with 76 percent of responding patients having responses of six months or longer.

In KEYNOTE-013, 31 patients received KEYTRUDA at a dose of 10 mg/kg every two weeks until unacceptable toxicity or documented disease progression. Eighty-seven percent of patients were refractory to at least one prior therapy, including 39 percent who were refractory to first-line therapy. Seventy-four percent of patients had undergone prior ASCT, 26 percent were transplant ineligible, and 42 percent of patients had prior radiation therapy. Efficacy analysis showed an ORR of 58 percent (95% CI: 39.1, 75.5) with a CRR of 19 percent and a PRR of 39 percent. The median follow-up time was 28.7 months. Among the 18 responding patients, the median duration of response was not reached (range 0.0+ to 26.1+), with 80 percent of patients with a response of six months or longer and 70 percent of patients with a response of 12 months or longer.

The safety analysis supporting the European approval of KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) was based on 3,194 patients with advanced melanoma, NSCLC or cHL across four doses (2 mg/kg every three weeks, 200 mg every three weeks, or 10 mg/kg every two or three weeks) in clinical studies. The most common adverse reactions (greater than 10%) with KEYTRUDA were fatigue (22%), pruritus (15%), rash (13%), diarrhea (12%) and nausea (10%). The majority of adverse reactions reported were of Grade 1 or 2 severity. The most serious adverse reactions were immune-related adverse reactions and severe infusion-related reactions.

About Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of lymphoma that develops in the white blood cells, called lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system. Hodgkin lymphoma can start almost anywhere – most often in lymph nodes in the upper part of the body, with the most common sites being in the chest, neck or under the arms. Worldwide, there were approximately 66,000 new cases of Hodgkin lymphoma and 25,500 people died from the disease in 2012. Classical Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for about 95 percent of all cases of Hodgkin lymphoma in developed countries.

About KEYTRUDA ® (pembrolizumab)

KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA 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.

KEYTRUDA is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the approved indications. KEYTRUDA for injection is supplied in a 100 mg single-dose vial.

KEYTRUDA Indications and Dosing in the U.S.

Melanoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma at a dose of 2 mg/kg every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

Lung Cancer

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have high PD-L1 expression [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥50%] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.

KEYTRUDA is also 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.

In metastatic NSCLC, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Head and Neck Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. In HNSCC, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL), or who have relapsed after three or more prior lines of therapy. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. In adults with cHL, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression. In pediatric patients with cHL, KEYTRUDA is administered at a dose of 2 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 200 mg) every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA ®  (pembrolizumab)

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis, including fatal cases. Pneumonitis occurred in 94 (3.4%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 1 (0.8%), 2 (1.3%), 3 (0.9%), 4 (0.3%), and 5 (0.1%) pneumonitis, and occurred more frequently in patients with a history of prior thoracic radiation (6.9%) compared to those without (2.9%). Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis. Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 or recurrent Grade 2 pneumonitis.

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated colitis. Colitis occurred in 48 (1.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.4%), 3 (1.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) colitis. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis.

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hepatitis. Hepatitis occurred in 19 (0.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.4%), and 4 (<0.1%) hepatitis. Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA.

KEYTRUDA can cause hypophysitis. Hypophysitis occurred in 17 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.2%), 3 (0.3%), and 4 (<0.1%) hypophysitis. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency). Administer corticosteroids and hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3 or 4 hypophysitis.

KEYTRUDA can cause thyroid disorders, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism occurred in 96 (3.4%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.8%) and 3 (0.1%) hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurred in 237 (8.5%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (6.2%) and 3 (0.1%) hypothyroidism. Thyroiditis occurred in 16 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.3%) thyroiditis. Monitor patients for changes in thyroid function (at the start of treatment, periodically during treatment, and as indicated based on clinical evaluation) and for clinical signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders. Administer replacement hormones for hypothyroidism and manage hyperthyroidism with thionamides and beta-blockers as appropriate. Withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 hyperthyroidism.

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) can cause type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic ketoacidosis, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients. Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes, and withhold KEYTRUDA and administer antihyperglycemics in patients with severe hyperglycemia.

KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated nephritis. Nephritis occurred in 9 (0.3%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) nephritis. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.

KEYTRUDA can cause other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions. For suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, ensure adequate evaluation to confirm etiology or exclude other causes. Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, withhold KEYTRUDA and administer corticosteroids. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Based on limited data from clinical studies in patients whose immune-related adverse reactions could not be controlled with corticosteroid use, administration of other systemic immunosuppressants can be considered. Resume KEYTRUDA when the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or less following corticosteroid taper. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any Grade 3 immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.

The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% (unless otherwise indicated) of 2799 patients: arthritis (1.5%), exfoliative dermatitis, bullous pemphigoid, rash (1.4%), uveitis, myositis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, myasthenia gravis, vasculitis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, and partial seizures arising in a patient with inflammatory foci in brain parenchyma. In addition, myelitis and myocarditis were reported in other clinical trials, including cHL, and postmarketing use.

Solid organ transplant rejection has been reported in postmarketing use of KEYTRUDA. Treatment with KEYTRUDA may increase the risk of rejection in solid organ transplant recipients. Consider the benefit of treatment with KEYTRUDA vs the risk of possible organ rejection in these patients.

KEYTRUDA can cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions, including rigors, chills, wheezing, pruritus, flushing, rash, hypotension, hypoxemia, and fever. For Grade 3 or 4 reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab).

Immune-mediated complications, including fatal events, occurred in patients who underwent allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) after being treated with KEYTRUDA. Of 23 patients with cHL who proceeded to allogeneic HSCT after treatment with KEYTRUDA on any trial, 6 patients (26%) developed graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), one of which was fatal, and 2 patients (9%) developed severe hepatic veno-occlusive disease (VOD) after reduced-intensity conditioning, one of which was fatal. Cases of fatal hyperacute GVHD after allogeneic HSCT have also been reported in patients with lymphoma who received a PD-1 receptor-blocking antibody before transplantation. These complications may occur despite intervening therapy between PD-1 blockade and allogeneic HSCT. Follow patients closely for early evidence of transplant-related complications such as hyperacute GVHD, severe (Grade 3 to 4) acute GVHD, steroid-requiring febrile syndrome, hepatic VOD, and other immune-mediated adverse reactions, and intervene promptly.

Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. If used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant during treatment, apprise the patient of the potential hazard to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use highly effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months after the last dose of KEYTRUDA.

KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 5% of 210 patients with cHL and treatment was interrupted due to adverse reactions in 26% of patients. Fifteen percent (15%) of patients had an adverse reaction requiring systemic corticosteroid therapy. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 16% of patients. The most frequent serious adverse reactions (>1%) included pneumonia, pneumonitis, pyrexia, dyspnea, GVHD, and herpes zoster. Two patients died from causes other than disease progression; one from GVHD after subsequent allogeneic HSCT and one from septic shock. The most common adverse reactions (occurring in ≥20% of patients) were fatigue (26%), pyrexia (24%), cough (24%), musculoskeletal pain (21%), diarrhea (20%), and rash (20%).

It is not known whether KEYTRUDA is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, instruct women to discontinue nursing during treatment with KEYTRUDA and for 4 months after the final dose.

There is limited experience in pediatric patients. In a study of 40 pediatric patients with advanced melanoma, PD-L1–positive advanced, relapsed, or refractory solid tumors or lymphoma, patients were treated with KEYTRUDA for a median of 43 days (range 1 to 414 days), with 24 patients (60%) receiving treatment for 42 days or more. The safety profile in pediatric patients was similar to that seen in adults treated with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab). Toxicities that occurred at a higher rate (≥15% difference) in these patients when compared to adults under 65 years of age were fatigue (45%), vomiting (38%), abdominal pain (28%), hypertransaminasemia (28%), and hyponatremia (18%).

Our Focus on Cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck, helping people fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer.

As part of our focus on cancer, Merck is committed to exploring the potential of immuno-oncology with one of the fastest-growing development programs in the industry.We are currently executing an expansive research program that includes nearly 500 clinical trials evaluating our anti-PD-1 therapy across more than 30 tumor types. We also continue to strengthen our immuno-oncology portfolio through strategic acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising immunotherapeutic candidates with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers.

For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.

About Merck

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world's most challenging diseases. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world - including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer's disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in the company’s 2016 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (www.sec.gov).

Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at  http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_pi.pdf  and

Patient Information/Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at  http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_mg.pdf .

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