Single-arm, open-label phase 2 trial of pembrolizumab in patients with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis

Nat Med. 2020 Aug;26(8):1280-1284. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-0918-0. Epub 2020 Jun 2.


An increasing fraction of patients with metastatic cancer develop leptomeningeal dissemination of disease (LMD), and survival is dismal1-3. We conducted a single-arm, phase 2 study of pembrolizumab in patients with solid tumor malignancies and LMD (NCT02886585). Patients received 200 mg of pembrolizumab intravenously every 3 weeks until definitive progression or unacceptable toxicity. The primary endpoint was rate of overall survival at 3 months (OS3). Secondary objectives included toxicity, response rate and time to intracranial or extracranial disease progression. A Simon two-stage design was used to compare a null hypothesis OS3 of 18% against an alternative of 43%. Twenty patients-17 with breast cancer, two with lung cancer and one with ovarian cancer-were enrolled into the pre-specified evaluation group having received at least one dose of pembrolizumab. The median follow-up of surviving patients was 6.3 months (range, 2.2-12.5 months). The percentage of patients who experienced one (or more) grade 3 or higher adverse events at least possibly related to treatment was 40%, the most frequent being hyperglycemia (n = 6), nausea (n = 7) and vomiting (n = 7). The study met the primary endpoint, as 12 of 20 (OS3, 0.60; 90% confidence interval, 0.39-0.78) patients were alive at 3 months after enrollment. Pembrolizumab is safe and feasible and displays promising activity in patients with LMD. Further investigations are needed to identify which patients with LMD can benefit from pembrolizumab.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hyperglycemia / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Meningeal Carcinomatosis / drug therapy*
  • Meningeal Carcinomatosis / pathology
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Nausea / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vomiting / chemically induced
  • Vomiting / pathology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • pembrolizumab

Associated data