In this phase I clinical trial of 655 patients with advanced melanoma, pembrolizumab (brand name Keytruda) appeared to help patients live longer. Among patients who hadn't received prior treatments, 60 percent survived for at least two years after receiving pembrolizumab, this University of California, Los Angeles, study found.
Some patients had to stop taking pembrolizumab, which was given intravenously, because of adverse effects. Nine percent of the study patients reported serious adverse events.
Pembrolizumab, which works to block a protein that prevents the body from fighting off melanoma cells, is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat melanoma that cannot be removed by surgery or that has spread to other parts of the body.
This study was published recently in JAMA.
This early trial was funded by Merck, which produces Keytruda. Several researchers reported financial ties to Merck and other pharmaceutical companies, among other conflicts of interest.