Outcomes With Pembrolizumab Plus Platinum-Based Chemotherapy for Patients With NSCLC and Stable Brain Metastases: Pooled Analysis of KEYNOTE-021, -189, and -407

Steven F. Powell, Delvys Rodríguez-Abreu, Corey J. Langer, Ali Tafreshi, Luis Paz-Ares, Hans Georg Kopp, Jeronimo Rodríguez-Cid, Dariusz M. Kowalski, Ying Cheng, Takayasu Kurata, Mark M. Awad, Jinaxin Lin, Bin Zhao, M. Catherine Pietanza, Bilal Piperdi, Marina C. Garassino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Introduction: This exploratory analysis retrospectively evaluated outcomes in patients with advanced NSCLC to determine whether baseline brain metastases influenced the efficacy of first-line pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone. Methods: We pooled data for patients with advanced NSCLC in KEYNOTE-021 cohort G (nonsquamous), KEYNOTE-189 (nonsquamous), and KEYNOTE-407 (squamous). Patients were assigned to platinum-doublet chemotherapy with or without the addition of 35 cycles of pembrolizumab 200 mg every 3 weeks. All studies permitted enrollment of patients with previously treated or untreated (KEYNOTE-189 and KEYNOTE-407 only) stable brain metastases. Patients with previously treated brain metastases were clinically stable for 2 or more weeks (≥4 wk in KEYNOTE-021 cohort G), had no evidence of new or enlarging brain metastases, and had no steroid use at least 3 days before dosing. Patients with known untreated asymptomatic brain metastases required regular imaging of the brain. Results: A total of 1298 patients were included, 171 with and 1127 without baseline brain metastases. Median (range) durations of follow-up at data cutoff were 10.9 (0.1‒35.1) and 11.0 (0.1‒34.9) months, respectively. Hazard ratios (pembrolizumab + chemotherapy/chemotherapy) were similar for patients with and without brain metastases for overall survival (0.48 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.32‒0.70] and 0.63 [95% CI: 0.53‒0.75], respectively) and progression-free survival (0.44 [95% CI: 0.31‒0.62] and 0.55 [95% CI: 0.48‒0.63], respectively). In patients with brain metastases, median overall survival was 18.8 months with pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy and 7.6 months with chemotherapy, and median progression-free survival was 6.9 months and 4.1 months, respectively. Objective response rates were higher and duration of response longer with pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy regardless of brain metastasis status. Incidences of treatment-related adverse events with pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy were 88.2% versus 82.8% among patients with brain metastases and 94.5% versus 90.6% in those without. Conclusions: With or without brain metastasis, pembrolizumab plus platinum-based histology-specific chemotherapy improved clinical outcomes versus chemotherapy alone across all programmed death ligand 1 subgroups, including patients with programmed death ligand 1 tumor proportion score less than 1% and had a manageable safety profile in patients with advanced NSCLC. This regimen is a standard-of-care treatment option for treatment-naive patients with advanced NSCLC, including patients with stable brain metastases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1883-1892
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain metastases
  • Chemotherapy
  • Non‒small-cell lung cancer
  • PD-L1
  • Pembrolizumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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