MONDAY, June 3, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Pembrolizumab is noninferior to chemotherapy for overall survival among patients with programmed death ligand 1, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative, advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, held from May 31 to June 4 in Chicago.

Josep Tabernero, M.D., Ph.D., from the Vall D’Hebron University Hospital and Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues enrolled 763 patients with advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either intravenous pembrolizumab (256 patients), pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy (257 patients), or chemotherapy plus placebo (250 patients). Patients were followed for a median of 11.3 months.

The researchers found that pembrolizumab was noninferior to chemotherapy for overall survival, with median overall survival of 10.6 and 11.1 months, respectively. Among patients with a PD-L1 combined positive score of ≥10, pembrolizumab prolonged overall survival versus chemotherapy, with median overall survival of 17.4 versus 10.8 months (hazard ratio, 0.69).

“This trial shows that front-line pembrolizumab is effective and could provide a new opportunity for people newly diagnosed with advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancers,” Tabernero said in a statement. “There remains a significant unmet need for treatments for these cancers and our results reinforce the importance of continued research in this field.”

The study was partially funded by Merck, the manufacturer of pembrolizumab.

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