Event-free Survival with Pembrolizumab in Early Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

the KEYNOTE-522 Investigators

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430 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND The addition of pembrolizumab to neoadjuvant chemotherapy led to a significantly higher percentage of patients with early triple-negative breast cancer having a pathological complete response (defined as no invasive cancer in the breast and negative nodes) at definitive surgery in an earlier analysis of this phase 3 trial of neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy. The primary results regarding event-free survival in this trial have not been reported. METHODS We randomly assigned, in a 2:1 ratio, patients with previously untreated stage II or III triple-negative breast cancer to receive neoadjuvant therapy with four cycles of pembrolizumab (at a dose of 200 mg) or placebo every 3 weeks plus paclitaxel and carboplatin, followed by four cycles of pembrolizumab or placebo plus doxorubicin-cyclophosphamide or epirubicin-cyclophosphamide. After definitive surgery, patients received adjuvant pembrolizumab (pembrolizumab-chemotherapy group) or placebo (placebo-chemotherapy group) every 3 weeks for up to nine cycles. The primary end points were pathological complete response (the results for which have been reported previously) and event-free survival, defined as the time from randomization to the date of disease progression that precluded definitive surgery, local or distant recurrence, occurrence of a second primary cancer, or death from any cause. Safety was also assessed. RESULTS Of the 1174 patients who underwent randomization, 784 were assigned to the pembrolizumab-chemotherapy group and 390 to the placebo-chemotherapy group. The median follow-up at this fourth planned interim analysis (data cutoff, March 23, 2021) was 39.1 months. The estimated event-free survival at 36 months was 84.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 81.7 to 86.9) in the pembrolizumab-chemotherapy group, as compared with 76.8% (95% CI, 72.2 to 80.7) in the placebo-chemotherapy group (hazard ratio for event or death, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.48 to 0.82; P<0.001). Adverse events occurred predominantly during the neoadjuvant phase and were consistent with the established safety profiles of pembrolizumab and chemotherapy. CONCLUSIONS In patients with early triple-negative breast cancer, neoadjuvant pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy, followed by adjuvant pembrolizumab after surgery, resulted in significantly longer event-free survival than neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-567
Number of pages12
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 10 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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