The following article features coverage from the 2018 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. Click here to read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s conference coverage.

Pembrolizumab may be an effective treatment option for some patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) previously treated with sorafenib, according to research being presented at the 2018 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, California.1

Immune checkpoint inhibition has shown some promising activity in HCC. For the open-label phase 2 KEYNOTE-224 trial ( Identifier: NCT02702414), researchers evaluated whether pembrolizumab, a PD-1 inhibitor, would improve outcomes among patients with HCC who progressed after sorafenib treatment and who had a life expectancy of over 3 months. The primary endpoint was objective response rate (ORR).

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One hundred and four patients were enrolled; the median patient age was 68 years, 21.2% were hepatitis B–positive, and 26% were hepatitis C–positive. The median follow-up was 8.4 months.

The ORR was 16.3% and was similar across subgroups; 94% of responders had an estimated response duration of at least 6 months. One patient had a complete response, 16 patients had a partial response, 47 patients had stable disease, and 34 patients had progressive disease.

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The median progression-free survival (PFS) was 4.8 months; median overall survival (OS) was not reached.

Treatment-related adverse events were noted in 73.1% of patients; grade 3 to 5 treatment-related events were noted in one-fourth of patients. One patient died of treatment-related ulcerative esophagitis.

The authors concluded that pembrolizumab “resulted in durable responses and favorable PFS and OS in pts with advanced HCC previously treated with sorafenib.”

Read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s coverage of the 2018 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium by visiting the conference page.


  1. Zhu AX, Finn RS, Cattan S, et al. KEYNOTE-224: Pembrolizumab in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma previously treated with sorafenib. Oral presentation at: 2018 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium; January 18-20, 2018; San Francisco, CA.