New drug approved to combat Melanoma.


Brand name: Keytruda

Generic name: Pembrolizumab. 

Manufacturers: Merck.

Approval status: September 2014

Indication: for treatment of patients with advanced melanoma that no longer responds to other drugs. It is the first FDA approved drug that blocks a cellular pathway called PD-1. This drug is specifically indicated for treating unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

Mechanism of action: Keytruda is a humanized monoclonal antibody that shows its action by blocking the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. Binding of the PD-1 ligands,  PD-L1 and PD-L2,  to the PD-1 receptor which are found on T cells, inhibits their proliferation and also plays a role in inhibiting cytokine production.

Dosage: It is present in a form of a solution for intravenous infusion. The recommended dose is 2mg/kg. It is infused in over 30 minutes and is usually given every 3 weeks.

Precautions: the patient should consult their physician or pharmacist if they experience or develop any of the following symptoms or the following symptoms get worse; 

a) Liver problems… if the patient experiences yellowing of skin, dark urine, pain in the right side of abdomen, nausea or vomiting,  bleeding or bruising more easily than normal. 

b) Intestinal problemscolitis that could lead to formation of holes in the intestines.

c) Lung problemsshortness of breath,  a worse case of cough, chest pain.

d) Kidney problems… may include nephritis and kidney failure,  patient may notice a change in the amount or color of urine.

e) Hormone gland problems… rapid heart beat, increased sweating,  weight gain or loss, muscle aches, unusual headaches.

Permanently discontinue Keytruda for any of the following:

a) any life threatening ADR.

b) grade 3 or 4 nephritis

c) grade 3 or 4 pneumonitis.

d) grade 3 or 4 infusion related reactions

Pregnancy category: D

Side effects: fatigue,  rash, pruritus,  constipation,  arthralgia,  cough, nausea,  decreased appetite. 

The following drug information is obtained from various medical journal,  newsletter,  drug’s official sites.




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