MSD Korea said Thursday that its revenue-driving anti-PD-1 immunotherapy Keytruda gained three new indications for head and neck cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and urothelial cancer last month.
The anticancer drug can now be used to treat a total of five types of specific cancer types in Korea. It had previously gained approval to treat melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer, the latter being the leading cause of cancer deaths in Korea, the company said.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approved the expanded indications based on four KEYNOTE trials that examined the efficacy of the immunotherapy on each type of cancer. Notably, the KEYNOTE-045 test proved Keytruda to significantly improve the overall survival rate of urinary tract patients in comparison to chemotherapy, the company said.
“With the expanded indications, we expect to provide a new treatment option for head and neck, Hodgkin lymphoma and certain urinary cancer patients and take one more step toward eradicating cancer,” MSD Korea’s CEO Avi BenShoshan said.
Meanwhile, the global Merck & Co announced last week that Keytruda sales boosted the company’s fourth-quarter earnings and became one of its top breadwinners previous year. Data showed a 169 percent year-on-year jump in the fourth-quarter Keytruda sales to $1.29 billion. The immunotherapy is now an only second place to the company’s best-selling diabetes drug Januvia, which created $1.52 billion in revenues in the same quarter.
Meanwhile, the Korean branch said it is making efforts to expand indications for its versatile anticancer drug by pushing forward 600 clinical trials for 30 types of cancer around the world.
“MSD will continue to work to provide clinical benefits of Keytruda to domestic patients who are suffering from cancer through clinical development programs for various anticancer drugs,” Avi added.
Keytruda is administered intravenously in 200-mg doses once every three weeks. The drug has served as the only first-line and second-line medication to be used alone, or in combination with other therapies for non-small cell lung cancer, the company said.