Pembrolizumab Plus Ipilimumab or Placebo for Metastatic Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer With PD-L1 Tumor Proportion Score ≥ 50%: Randomized, Double-Blind Phase III KEYNOTE-598 Study

J Clin Oncol. 2021 Jul 20;39(21):2327-2338. doi: 10.1200/JCO.20.03579. Epub 2021 Jan 29.


Purpose: Pembrolizumab monotherapy is standard first-line therapy for metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥ 50% without actionable driver mutations. It is not known whether adding ipilimumab to pembrolizumab improves efficacy over pembrolizumab alone in this population.

Methods: In the randomized, double-blind, phase III KEYNOTE-598 trial ( identifier: NCT03302234), eligible patients with previously untreated metastatic NSCLC with PD-L1 TPS ≥ 50% and no sensitizing EGFR or ALK aberrations were randomly allocated 1:1 to ipilimumab 1 mg/kg or placebo every 6 weeks for up to 18 doses; all participants received pembrolizumab 200 mg every 3 weeks for up to 35 doses. Primary end points were overall survival and progression-free survival.

Results: Of the 568 participants, 284 were randomly allocated to each group. Median overall survival was 21.4 months for pembrolizumab-ipilimumab versus 21.9 months for pembrolizumab-placebo (hazard ratio, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.85 to 1.37; P = .74). Median progression-free survival was 8.2 months for pembrolizumab-ipilimumab versus 8.4 months for pembrolizumab-placebo (hazard ratio, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.86 to 1.30; P = .72). Grade 3-5 adverse events occurred in 62.4% of pembrolizumab-ipilimumab recipients versus 50.2% of pembrolizumab-placebo recipients and led to death in 13.1% versus 7.5%. The external data and safety monitoring committee recommended that the study be stopped for futility and that participants discontinue ipilimumab and placebo.

Conclusion: Adding ipilimumab to pembrolizumab does not improve efficacy and is associated with greater toxicity than pembrolizumab monotherapy as first-line treatment for metastatic NSCLC with PD-L1 TPS ≥ 50% and no targetable EGFR or ALK aberrations. These data do not support use of pembrolizumab-ipilimumab in place of pembrolizumab monotherapy in this population.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • B7-H1 Antigen / drug effects*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab / pharmacology
  • Ipilimumab / therapeutic use*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • CD274 protein, human
  • Ipilimumab
  • pembrolizumab

Associated data