pembrolizumab - 'new' drug showing success in trials

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7/20/2014 3:07pm
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Replies: 9


Hi all,

Is the above medication known to people on here?

It was reported in a UK paper called The Guardian a few weeks ago.




Yes. That is Merck's new name for their PD-1. I get my 4th dose this Wednesday as part of their extended access program.

How are you feeling after 4 doses? I just had my first. 

I keep feeling better and better. Well I get my 4th dose in 2 days. But yeah this is great medicine so far.

That's great news Art!  Hope your feeling better is proof of good scans to come!

It was called Mk- 3475 and along with Bristol Myer Squibb's Nivolumab are in a class called PD-1 drugs ( Program death 1) great name . Both are available in clinical trials at present unless you are in Japan which just started making (Nivolumab) available. Hope this helps. If you want to get up to date information on Melanoma research for stage 4 patients go to youtube and search under ASCO 2014 Melanoma. Use names like Dr.Ribas, Dr. Jedd Wolchok, Dr. Mario Sznol. All these Dr.'s speak at the big Oncology meetings. There is also a video on Youtube called " Immunotherapy the silver bullet against Cancer." The video starts of looking like it is going to be about prostrate cancer but quickly gets into Melanoma. Best of luck with the research. Ed


Great name for a trial medication!

The surgeon who operated on me last week was Dr Saw......



I am participating in a clinical trial III of PD1, Nivolumab.  First treatment was in 8/2013.  I had scans done and received news the day before Thanksgiving of 2013 that most tumors were gone or had shrunk.  As subsequent scans have revealed the same, no active growth.  The MD's say I'm in complete remission.

I discovered an enlarged lymph node in my neck.  I worked in an Operating Room at the time and was quite familiar with the procedures I would later undergo.  Creepy being on the other side of the knife.  Went through 3 major operations, 4 bronch procedures one of which resulted in pneumothorax, radiation, IL2; Ippi and now PD1.  Side effects?  Well, hard to say if they are related to PD1.  I've had spontaneous fractures of the ribs (resulting in a blood clot to the lung) and some discoloration to skin but nothing, NOTHING to be concerned with or even complain as a side effect.  My hair has thinned but that could be due to stress and drugs received in Anesthesia.

I am GRATEFUL to CPMC, BMS and all the health professionals that have taken care of me.  It's been a journey of 2 1/2 years.  I would encourage any patient to incorporate in their treatment the care of the mind and spirit.  Just went to a free conference in Campbell, CA through "Healing" and the speakers, music, meeting with other cancer patients and survivors....CHANGE MY LIFE.  "Cancer as a turning point".

I met another stage 4 survivor, 23 years out from her initial diagnosis.  Talking with her at lunch gave me such hope.


Hi Nigel,

Hopefully, given what you have already posted, anti-PD1 is not a med you will be needing soon.  Ed gave you some good references.  Anti-PD1 drugs are immunotherapy. They unleash your immune system so that it can fight your melanoma. There are three here in the US...the BMS product Nivolumab, the Merck drug (MK3475..also known as Pembrolizumab) and Pidilizumab by CureTech which didn't do so well.  This past June I was one year post my last infusion of Nivolumab after a 2 1/2 year trial.

Here is what Weber (an international expert) had to say in an interview after attending ASCO, a big annual cancer conference held in Chicago each year: 

Ongoing Breakthroughs in Immunotherapy.  Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD and Jeffrey Weber, MD, PhD
June 12, 2014

"Weber:  The melanoma... session included 4 very impressive abstracts on PD-1...antibodies... It opened with the first new PD-1 antibody that we have heard from a relatively small study of about 100 patients...had a fairly good 1-year survival rate of 64%.  However, it only had about a 5%-6% response rate. That was pidilizumab (CT-011). ..10 years ago that might have cut it in the melanoma field for further development...[currently] I would be hard pressed to have enthusiasm for it.  This was a very well done study...but I am hard pressed to want to take pidilizumab further, given the current landscape.

Weber:  In both the nivolumab [BMS anti-PD1] and pembrolizumab [MK3475, Merck's anti-PD1] abstracts (from your own [Ribas] abstract on pembrolizumab with 411 patients), we are looking at an average of about a 40% response rate across a number of different cohorts....and a lesser response rate (28%) in those who failed ipilimumab.  This is consistent with my experience in PD-1 trials, in which the response rate of those who failed [ipi] was 25%-26%....but in those who were ipi-naive, most of whom were previously untreated, we are getting close to a 40% response rate, with 1-year survivals in the range of 67%-69% and an 18 month survival of 62%...we are talking about at least a 24-month median survival, and that's pretty darn impressive from pembrolizumab.  We have high expectations that the drug will receive approval from the [FDA] before the end of the year.

There was an update by Hodi on the data...presented last year by Sznol...a 107 patient, phase 1/2 trial of nivolumab...This time, survival is in the realm of 17.5 months, across a 100-fold cohort in terms of dose.  Many patients were previously treated with 2-4 regimens, so... pretty beat-up patients...compared to the pembrolizumab patients, but the response rate was still 32%. 

...I presented...a 33% response rate in the ipi-naive group; I showed a 26% response rate in the ipi-refractory group. The median survival is excellent, but it's still less than 24 months...albeit in a group of patients who were treated at suboptimal nivo doses and who had already been through multiple regimens.  Nonetheless, were impressive, showing very good survival.  Clearly, any drug with more than a 30% response rate in patients who have been through a median of 3 previous regimens in melanoma is looking very good. That drug [nivo], we assume, is going to come up for registration sometime this year. "

For the entire synopsis and link:

Here's a link to my definition of anti-PD1 and how it works:

Hope that helps.  Ipi as well as BRAF inhibitors are good treatments as well.  Again, hopefully you will need none of these.  Yours, Celeste


Thank you Celeste.

I guess Iam trying to get a handle on the treatments out there and am jumping around a bit. Two people I have spoken to on the phone via this page have given me great advice, education and support. I feel humbled. And very grateful.

At first,it was too frightening even to read anything about this disease. It just made me cry. Anyway,it still does but I am coming to terms with it.

Best wishes,