Encouraging results for pembrolizumab in children with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma

Promising early results of the KEYNOTE-51 study published in the Lancet Oncology

Text that says Results

The Lancet Oncology has published early results from the KEYNOTE-51 study. This is an ongoing trial of a targeted drug called pembrolizumab in children with certain types of cancer, including classical Hodgkin lymphoma that is did not respond (refractory) or has come back (relapsed) despite previous treatment.

Pembrolizumab is a type of targeted drug called a ‘checkpoint inhibitor’. It works by blocking an interaction between lymphoma cells and immune cells that switches the immune response to the lymphoma off. Blocking the interaction allows your immune system to recognise the lymphoma cells as abnormal, and destroy them.

Pembrolizumab is already licensed for adults with classical Hodgkin lymphoma that has relapsed or progressed (got worse) after treatment with brentuximab vedotin and who have already had, or are not able to have, an autologous stem cell transplant.

The aim of this trial is to find out whether pembrolizumab is safe and effective at treating childhood cancers that have not responded to treatment or have come back after initial treatment.

So far, 154 children have been treated as part of the trial. Of these, 15 had Hodgkin lymphoma.

  •  Most childhood cancer types did not respond well to pembrolizumab treatment.
  •  However, in 9 out of the 15 children with Hodgkin lymphoma (60%), the lymphoma shrank after treatment with pembrolizumab. In two of these children, the   lymphoma disappeared on tests and scans.
  •  The most common side effects of pembrolizumab in the children in the study were low red blood cell count (anaemia) and low lymphocyte count.
The authors concluded that pembrolizumab was well tolerated and showed encouraging anti-tumour activity in children with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma, consistent with experience in adult patients. 

These are very early results in a small number of children. The study is still recruiting and the final results are due by September 2022.

To find out more about the KEYNOTE-51 study and other clinical trials for lymphoma, or to search for a trial that might be suitable for you, visit Lymphoma TrialsLink.

2 January 2020