KEYTRUDA ® (pembrolizumab) Now Registered as a Potential Treatment Option for New Zealanders With an Aggressive Type of Breast Cancer: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

KEYTRUDA ® (pembrolizumab) Now Registered as a Potential Treatment Option for New Zealanders With an Aggressive Type of Breast Cancer: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

October 28, 2022. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited (MSD) is pleased to share that the immunotherapy drug, KEYTRUDA, can now be used to treat certain patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). 1

MSD New Zealand Director Vanessa Gascoigne says: “KEYTRUDA can now be used in combination with chemotherapy as a treatment before surgery and then continued alone after surgery in patients with early-stage TNBC who are at high risk of your cancer comes back. 1

“KEYTRUDA can also be used in combination with chemotherapy in patients whose TNBC has come back and cannot be removed by surgery or has spread, and is positive for a specific biomarker called PD-L1.” 1

“TNBC occurs more often in premenopausal women and in those who have a BRCA1 gene mutation. It accounts for approximately 10-15% of all breast cancers.” two

Aotearoa Breast Cancer Coalition President Libby Burgess says that “TNBC is more likely to recur within two to three years of diagnosis, compared to 10 to 15 years for people with other types. of breast cancer. 3
“TNBC does not have receptors that current medications such as hormones and HER2 blockers can target, which means you have fewer treatment options available. 3 Therefore, there is an urgent need to fund more treatment options for people with high-risk early-stage TNBC, as well as those with advanced disease.”
Executive Director of the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, Ah-Leen Rayner, says: “Our research shows that women under the age of 45 have a higher proportion of TNBC compared to older women. 2 Because they are not eligible for free screening, which helps find breast cancer early, we encourage younger women to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. It is crucial that women become familiar with their breasts and learn to spot any changes and speak to their GP if they notice anything unusual.”
Vanessa Gascoigne adds: ‘Unfortunately, KEYTRUDA only receives public funding in New Zealand for certain patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma. 4 Not publicly funded for the other 1,200+ New Zealanders who could receive treatment each year. 5 This compares to Australia, where KEYTRUDA receives funding for seven types of cancer. 6

“We welcome the government’s recent increase in the Pharmac budget and will continue to work with the agency to gain access to funded KEYTRUDA for a number of different types of cancer, including TNBC.
“However, if New Zealand is to keep pace with drug development and be able to provide funded access to drugs in a timely manner, further substantial budget increases in the coming years will be critical to help clear the drug waiting list. ”.

KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) is available as a 100 mg/4 mL concentrate for solution for infusion.
KEYTRUDA consumer drug information is available at

KEYTRUDA is a prescription medicine and can be used in adults:
• After surgery to remove melanoma or renal cell carcinoma to help prevent the cancer from coming back
• Before surgery to treat triple-negative breast cancer and then continue after surgery to help prevent the cancer from coming back
• To treat bladder cancer that has not spread to nearby tissues but has a high risk of spreading and where removal of the bladder is not preferred
• To treat classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) that has come back or when other treatments have not worked
• To treat certain types of cancer when the cancer has spread (metastatic) or cannot be removed by surgery (unresectable), such as:
or melanoma
or non-small cell lung cancer
Urothelial carcinoma
or squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
or renal cell carcinoma
esophageal carcinoma
endometrial carcinoma
or triple negative breast cancer
or a type of cancer that can occur anywhere in the body and shows up on a lab test as microsatellite instability high (MSI-H) or poor mismatch repair (dMMR)
or cancer of the colon or rectum that shows up on a lab test such as MSI-H or dMMR

KEYTRUDA can be used in children with cHL, MSI-H, or dMMR cancer, or after surgery to remove melanoma. It is not known if KEYTRUDA is safe and effective in children with MSI-H or dMMR cancer of the brain or spinal cord (central nervous system cancers).

KEYTRUDA can cause harm or death to unborn babies. Talk to your doctor if you are a woman who could become pregnant and use effective birth control while taking KEYTRUDA and for at least 4 months after your last dose of KEYTRUDA. Do not breastfeed while taking KEYTRUDA.

Serious immune-mediated side effects affecting the lungs, intestines, liver, kidneys, hormone glands, blood sugar levels, skin, other organs, and in transplant recipients have occurred. Some of these side effects can sometimes be life-threatening and can cause death. These side effects can occur at any time during treatment or even after treatment ends, and you may experience more than one side effect at the same time. Serious infusion reactions have also occurred.
Very common side effects with KEYTRUDA alone include diarrhea, nausea, itching, rash, joint pain, back pain, feeling tired, cough, patches of discolored skin, stomach pain, low blood sodium levels, and low of thyroid hormone.
When KEYTRUDA was given in combination with chemotherapy, hair loss, vomiting, decreased white blood cell counts, mouth sores, fever, decreased appetite, and inflammation of the lining of the digestive system (e.g., mouth, bowels). .
When KEYTRUDA was given in combination with axitinib, high blood pressure, fatigue, low thyroid hormone levels, decreased appetite, blisters or rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, increased levels of enzymes were also observed. hepatic, hoarseness and constipation. commonly reported.
When KEYTRUDA was given in combination with lenvatinib, high blood pressure, decreased appetite, low thyroid hormone levels, vomiting, weight loss, headache, constipation, hoarseness, urinary tract infection, stomach area (abdominal pain), blisters or rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, protein in the urine, increased levels of liver enzymes, and feeling weak were also commonly reported.
The most common side effects when KEYTRUDA is given alone to children include fever, vomiting, headache, stomach pain, decreased number of red blood cells, cough, and constipation. (v41)

KEYTRUDA has risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA is right for you. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, tell your doctor.

KEYTRUDA is only funded to treat melanoma that has spread and cannot be removed by surgery. KEYTRUDA is not funded for the treatment of all of the other types of cancer listed above. Ask your health care professional about the cost of the drug and any other medical charges that may apply.

Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited. Level 3, 123 Carlton Gore Road, Newmarket, Auckland.

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