FDA Approves Pembrolizumab for Adjuvant Treatment of Renal Cell Carcinoma

November 18, 2021

The following is a message from the Director of the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence, Dr. Richard Pazdur:

On November 17, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck) for the adjuvant treatment of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) at intermediate-high or high risk of recurrence following nephrectomy, or following nephrectomy and resection of metastatic lesions.

Efficacy was evaluated in KEYNOTE-564 (NCT03142334), a multicenter, randomized (1:1), double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 994 patients with intermediate-high or high risk of recurrence of RCC, or M1 no evidence of disease. Patients were randomized to pembrolizumab 200 mg intravenously every 3 weeks or placebo for up to 1 year until disease recurrence or unacceptable toxicity. 

The major efficacy outcome measure was investigator-assessed disease-free survival (DFS), defined as time to recurrence, metastasis, or death. An additional outcome measure was overall survival (OS). A statistically significant improvement in DFS was demonstrated at a prespecified interim analysis, with 109 (22%) events in the pembrolizumab arm and 151 (30%) events in those receiving placebo (HR 0.68; 95% CI: 0.53, 0.87; p=0.0010). Median DFS was not reached in either arm. At the time of the DFS analysis, OS data were not mature, with 5% deaths in the overall population.

The most common adverse reactions (≥20%) occurring in patients on this trial were musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, rash, diarrhea, pruritus, and hypothyroidism.

The recommended pembrolizumab dose is 200 mg every 3 weeks or 400 mg every 6 weeks until disease recurrence, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 12 months.

View full prescribing information for Keytruda.

This review was conducted under Project Orbis, an initiative of the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence. Project Orbis provides a framework for concurrent submission and review of oncology drugs among international partners. For this review, FDA collaborated with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Health Canada, and Swissmedic. The application reviews may be ongoing at the other regulatory agencies. 

This review used the Assessment Aid, a voluntary submission from the applicant to facilitate the FDA’s assessment. The FDA approved this application 3 weeks ahead of the FDA goal date.

This application was granted priority review. A description of FDA expedited programs is in the Guidance for Industry: Expedited Programs for Serious Conditions-Drugs and Biologics.

Healthcare professionals should report all serious adverse events suspected to be associated with the use of any medicine and device to FDA’s MedWatch Reporting System or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.

For assistance with single-patient INDs for investigational oncology products, healthcare professionals may contact OCE’s Project Facilitate at 240-402-0004 or email OncProjectFacilitate@fda.hhs.gov.

Follow the Oncology Center of Excellence on Twitter @FDAOncology

Please visit the FDA Hematology/Oncology (Cancer) Approvals & Safety Notifications webpage for a list of current and past approvals.