Pembrolizumab use for the treatment of advanced melanoma.
Introduction: Until recently, overall long term survival in patients with stage IV melanoma was lower than 10 %. However, the treatment of melanoma has evolved rapidly over the last few years, with the advent of inhibitors of BRAF and MEK and of immunotherapeutic agents including ipilimumab, nivolumab, and pembrolizumab.
Areas covered: This is a comprehensive review of the literature on the role of pembrolizumab in melanoma. Pembrolizumab is a Programmed Death Receptor 1 (PD-1) directed monoclonal antibody which is approved by FDA and EMA for the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma.
Expert opinion: Phase II and III trials demonstrated that pembrolizumab is superior to ipilimumab in previously untreated patients and to chemotherapy in ipilimumab pre-treated patients. Unfortunately, prospectively validated predictive markers are lacking. Immune-related adverse events are particularly interesting and should be managed per the published guidelines. There are still many issues that remain unresolved including: when to stop treatment, biomarkers for choosing a single agent or combination therapy, the optimal schedule of ipilimumab in combination with anti-PD1 monoclonal antibodies, optimal management of adverse events, the role of immunotherapy in specific populations, the optimal sequence of immunotherapy and the BRAF/MEK inhibitor combination in patients.