Keytruda immunotherapy is an approved off-label treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma that has returned and is resistant to other therapies. Keytruda is also known by its generic name, pembrolizumab. 

Keytruda’s Success in Treating Other Cancers

Keytruda has been successful in treating many other cancers, including 

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Head and neck cancer 
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Mycosis Fungoides
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma
  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Urothelial carcinoma

Keytruda is commonly used in a multimodal approach, meaning it is combined with other cancer therapies such as immunotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Combination treatment generally leads to better quality of life and life-expectancy outcomes than what can be achieved with one drug or one kind of cancer therapy alone.

How Keytruda Works

Keytruda works to inhibit the PD-1 receptor found on T-cells. (T-cells are a type of white blood cell. They stimulate the immune system and kill foreign cells, infected cells, and cancer cells.) This receptor is like an “off” switch. It prevents T-cells from fighting and killing other cells, including cancer cells. 

By inhibiting PD-1, Keytruda activates the immune system to function at a higher level. Keytruda also works to inhibit the proteins PD-L1 and PD-L2, which activate PD-1.1

Side Effects of Keytruda

Common side effects of Keytruda include

  • Low blood counts (white blood cells, healthy red blood cells, and platelets)
  • Hemorrhage
  • Elevated liver enzymes 
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Electrolyte abnormalities (low sodium, phosphate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate)
  • Low protein 
  • Low or high blood sugar
  • High cholesterol and high triglycerides 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling
  • Heart rate and rhythm abnormalities
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Nerve pain
  • Joint ache
  • Muscle ache 
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Infection
  • Inflammed and sore mouth
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rash, itching, and discoloration2

Keytruda Immunotherapy for Mesothelioma