“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”
A trial of pembrolizumab for Hodgkin lymphoma (KEYNOTE 087)
This trial looked at a drug called pembrolizumab. It was for people with Hodgkin lymphoma that had:
- come back after treatment (
- continued to grow despite treatment (
More about this trial
This trial started in 2015 and these results came out in 2017. The team wanted to find out how well pembrolizumab worked and how safe it was for people who had already had one of the following:
- a stem cell transplant and brentuximab which either hadn’t worked or had stopped working
- people who weren’t suitable for a stem cell transplant and had had brentuximab which either didn’t work or had stopped working
- people who had had a stem cell transplant and hadn’t had brentuximab
Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a type of targeted cancer drug called a monoclonal antibody. It seeks cancer cells by looking for particular proteins.
Pembrolizumab is already a treatment for people with other types of cancer, such as melanoma. But doctors wanted to find out if it can also help people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma.
Summary of results
The trial team concluded that pembrolizumab helps some people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma.
This was an international phase 2 trial. 210 people who were having treatment for relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma for the 1st time took part.
Everyone had treatment with pembrolizumab for as long as it helped them, and the side effects weren’t too bad. On average, people had pembrolizumab every 3 weeks for about 8 months.
The trial team looked at how well pembrolizumab worked. To do this they looked at:
- the number of people who had no sign of their cancer (
- the number of people whose cancer had shrunk (
This is the overall response rate. Doctors found that 47 people had a complete response. And 98 people had a partial response.
Doctors then concluded that the overall response rate was almost 70%. This means that almost 7 out of every 10 people (almost 70%) had a complete response or a partial response.
The team also looked at the most common side effects people had. They were:
- a thyroid problem called
- high temperature (fever)
- tiredness (fatigue)
- skin rash
- feeling sick
- a drop in the number of white blood cells causing an increased risk of infection (neutropenia)
The trial team concluded that pembrolizumab helps some people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. They think this is a safe treatment. Researchers are now comparing pembrolizumab with the cancer drug brentuximab.
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Professor John Radford
Merck, Sharp & Dohme
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses
Freephone 0808 800 4040