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Adding Pembrolizumab to Chemo Ups Survival in Cervical Cancer

Progression-free and overall survival significantly longer for patients with persistent, recurrent, metastatic cervical cancer

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TUESDAY, Sept. 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer who are receiving chemotherapy with or without bevacizumab, progression-free and overall survival is significantly longer with pembrolizumab versus placebo, according to a study published online Sept. 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology, held virtually from Sept. 16 to 21.

Nicoletta Colombo, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Milan-Bicocca and European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, and colleagues examined the relative benefit of adding pembrolizumab to platinum-based chemotherapy with or without bevacizumab in a double-blind, phase 3 trial. Patients with persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer were randomly assigned to receive either pembrolizumab or placebo every three weeks.

The researchers found that median progression-free survival was 10.4 and 8.2 months in the pembrolizumab and placebo groups among 548 patients with a programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) combined positive score of 1 or more (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.62). Progression-free survival was 10.4 and 8.2 months, respectively, in the 617 patients in the intention-to-treat population (hazard ratio, 0.65) and 10.4 and 8.1 months, respectively, among 317 patients with a PD-L1 combined positive score of 10 or more (hazard ratio, 0.58). At 24 months, in the pembrolizumab and placebo groups, respectively, overall survival was 53.0 and 41.7 percent for patients with a PD-L1 combined positive score of 1 or more (hazard ratio for death, 0.64); 50.4 and 40.4 percent in the intention-to-treat population (hazard ratio, 0.67); and 54.4 and 44.6 percent for patients with PD-L1 combined positive score of 10 or more (hazard ratio, 0.61).

"All survival curves began to separate in favor of the pembrolizumab group at approximately month three and continued to diverge over time," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, which manufactures pembrolizumab and funded the study.

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