A phase 2 evaluation of pembrolizumab for recurrent Lynch-like versus sporadic endometrial cancers with microsatellite instability

Cancer. 2022 Mar 15;128(6):1206-1218. doi: 10.1002/cncr.34025. Epub 2021 Dec 7.


Background: Microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H)/mismatch repair deficiency (dMMR) is a biomarker for responses to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). Whether mechanisms underlying microsatellite instability alter responses to ICIs is unclear. This article reports data from a prospective phase 2 pilot study of pembrolizumab in patients with recurrent MSI-H endometrial cancer (EC) analyzed by whole exome sequencing (WES) and potential mechanisms of primary/secondary ICI resistance (NCT02899793).

Methods: Patients with measurable MSI-H/dMMR EC confirmed by polymerase chain reaction/immunohistochemistry were evaluated by WES and received 200 mg of pembrolizumab every 3 weeks for ≤2 years. The primary end point was the objective response rate (ORR). Secondary end points included progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS).

Results: Twenty-five patients (24 evaluable) were treated. Six patients (25%) harbored Lynch/Lynch-like tumors, whereas 18 (75%) had sporadic EC. The tumor mutation burden was higher in Lynch-like tumors (median, 2939 mutations/megabase [Mut/Mb]; interquartile range [IQR], 867-5108 Mut/Mb) than sporadic tumors (median, 604 Mut/Mb; IQR, 411-798 Mut/Mb; P = .0076). The ORR was 100% in Lynch/Lynch-like patients but only 44% in sporadic patients (P = .024). The 3-year PFS and OS proportions were 100% versus 30% (P = .017) and 100% versus 43% (P = .043), respectively.

Conclusions: This study suggests prognostic significance of Lynch-like cancers versus sporadic MSI-H/dMMR ECs for ORR, PFS, and OS when patients are treated with pembrolizumab. Larger confirmatory studies in ECs and other MSI-H/dMMR tumors are necessary. Defective antigen processing/presentation and deranged induction in interferon responses serve as mechanisms of resistance in sporadic MSI-H ECs. Oligoprogression in MSI-H/dMMR patients appears salvageable with surgical resection and/or local treatment and the continuation of pembrolizumab off study. Clinical studies evaluating separate MSI-H/dMMR EC subtypes treated with ICIs are warranted.

Keywords: clinical trial results; endometrial cancer; gynecologic cancers; gynecologic oncology; immunotherapy/checkpoint blockade; phase 2 clinical trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • DNA Mismatch Repair / genetics
  • Endometrial Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Endometrial Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Instability*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • pembrolizumab

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02899793