At MSD we believe in a key to more possibilities for treating your cancer patients. The paramount achievement in cancer treatment in the last decade has undoubtedly been the introduction of T-cell targeted immunomodulators that block immune checkpoints. 1

Anti-PD-1/PD-L1 antibodies have become some of the most widely prescribed anticancer therapies, showing significant improvement in several cancer types. 1, 2 The immune-checkpoint inhibitor KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), a humanised monoclonal antibody which binds to the programmed cell-death 1 (PD-1) receptor and blocks its interaction with ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2, is now approved for the treatment of seven tumour types in South Africa including melanoma, non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), head and neck cancer, classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL), urothelial carcinoma, renal cell carcinoma, and colorectal cancer. 3

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and paediatric patients with relapsed or refractory cHL. 3 KEYTRUDA was associated with a significant risk reduction of 35 % for disease progression or death (median follow-up 25,7 months), in a phase 3, randomised, open-label study (KEYNOTE-204) which assessed KEYTRUDA monotherapy versus Brentuximab vedotin (BV) in adult patients with relapsed or refractory cHL. 4 The primary endpoint assessment of progression-free survival (PFS) showed that median PFS was 13,2 months with KEYTRUDA compared with 8,3 months with BV (hazard ratio 0,65; 95 % CI, 0,48 to 0,88; p = 0,0027). 4 Results from the KEYNOTE-204 study add further evidence for the utility of PD-1 blockade in the treatment of relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma and establish a new potential standard of care. 4


  1. Robert C. A decade of immune-checkpoint inhibitors in cancer therapy. Nat Commun. 2020; 11:3801.
  2. Dobosz P, DziecińÖtkowski T. The intriguing history of cancer immunotherapy. Front Immunol 2019; 10: 2965.
  3. KEYTRUDA Approved Product Information MSD (Pty) Ltd 10 August 2021.
  4. Kuruvilla J, Ramchandren R, Santoro A, Paszkiewicz-Kozik E, Gasiorowski R, Johnson NA, et al; on behalf of the KEYNOTE-204 investigators. Pembrolizumab versus brentuximab vedotin in relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (KEYNOTE-204): an interim analysis of a multicentre, randomised, open-label, phase 3 study. Lancet Oncol. 2021; Published online: