Safety and Antitumor Activity of Pembrolizumab in Patients With Programmed Death-Ligand 1-Positive Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma: Results of the KEYNOTE-028 Study

J Clin Oncol. 2017 Dec 20;35(36):4050-4056. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.73.3675. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


Purpose To establish the safety profile and antitumor activity of the anti-programmed death 1 receptor monoclonal antibody, pembrolizumab, in patients with recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma (RM-NPC) that expressed programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1). Patients and Methods KEYNOTE-028 (NCT02054806) is a nonrandomized, multicohort, phase Ib trial of pembrolizumab in patients with PD-L1-positive advanced solid tumors. Key eligibility criteria for the NPC cohort included unresectable or metastatic disease, failure on prior standard therapy, and PD-L1 expression in 1% or more of tumor cells or tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. Patients received pembrolizumab 10 mg/kg every 2 weeks up to 2 years or until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Primary end point was objective response rate (ORR) per investigator review. Tumor response was assessed according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST; version 1.1) every 8 weeks for the first 6 months and every 12 weeks thereafter. Results Twenty-seven patients received pembrolizumab. Median age was 52.0 years (range, 18 to 68 years); 92.6% received prior therapies for RM-NPC; 70.4% had received three or more therapies. Partial response and stable disease were observed in seven and 14 patients, respectively, for an ORR of 25.9% (95% CI, 11.1 to 46.3) over a median follow-up of 20 months. ORR by central review was similar (26.3%). Drug-related adverse events that occurred in 15% or more of patients included rash (25.9%), pruritus (25.9%), pain (22.2%), hypothyroidism (18.5%), and fatigue (18.5%). Grade ≥ 3 drug-related adverse events occurred in eight patients (29.6%), and there was one drug-related death (sepsis). As of the data cutoff (June 20, 2016), two patients remained on pembrolizumab treatment. Conclusion Pembrolizumab demonstrated antitumor activity and a manageable safety profile in patients with RM-NPC.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use*
  • B7-H1 Antigen / antagonists & inhibitors
  • B7-H1 Antigen / biosynthesis
  • B7-H1 Antigen / immunology
  • Carcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma / immunology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • CD274 protein, human
  • pembrolizumab