Immunotherapy Drug Keytruda Shows Promise in Treating Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

A clinical trial testing the efficacy of the immune checkpoint-inhibitor drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in treating newly diagnosed and early stage triple-negative breast cancer showed promising results.

Triple-negative breast cancer is a harder to treat and more aggressive form of breast cancer which disproportionally affects young and Black/African American women.

This clinical trial led by Dr. Peter Schmid of Barts Cancer Institute in London randomly assigned 1,174 patients with stage II or stage III triple-negative breast cancer to one of two groups:

  1. Received standard chemotherapy and Keytruda before undergoing surgery to remove their tumor.
  2. Received standard chemotherapy and a placebo before undergoing surgery to remove their tumor.

The results showed that at the time of their surgery, Keytruda patients were 27% more likely to show no signs of cancer in their breast tissue or lymph nodes removed during surgery than the placebo group. Keytruda patients were also 37% less likely than the placebo group to die or suffer a cancer progression or recurrence up to two years after the clinical trial.

Susan G. Komen’s Senior Director of Education and Patient Support, Susan Brown, was encouraged by the trial’s results but emphasized a need for more research.

“The trial’s results are promising, but more research is needed to know whether Keytruda can ultimately extend the lives of women with this disease,” said Brown.

To see the full results of the clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, click here.