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Study of Pembrolizumab (MK-3475) as Monotherapy in Participants With Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma (MK-3475-224 / KEYNOTE-224)

Trial Status: Closed to Accrual

This is a efficacy and safety study of pembrolizumab (MK-3475, KEYTRUDA®) as monotherapy in participants with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in two cohorts: participants with advanced HCC and with no curative option after disease progression on sorafenib or intolerance of sorafenib (Cohort 1) or who had not received treatment for systemic disease (Cohort 2). Study participants may receive pembrolizumab once every 3 weeks for up to 35 initial cycles (up to approximately 2 years) and a potential additional 17 cycles in a re-treatment phase (approximately an additional 1 year of treatment) . The primary objective of this study is to determine the Objective Response Rate (ORR) of pembrolizumab given as monotherapy in participants with HCC. Effective with Amendment 7: Upon study completion, participants are discontinued and may be enrolled in a pembrolizumab extension study, if available.

Inclusion Criteria

  • For Cohort 1: has histologically or cytologically confirmed diagnosis of HCC (fibrolamellar and mixed hepatocellular/cholangiocarcinoma subtypes are not eligible) based on pathology report
  • For Cohort 2: has an HCC diagnosis confirmed by radiology, histology, or cytology (fibrolamellar and mixed hepatocellular/cholangiocarcinoma subtypes are not eligible)
  • Has Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) Stage C disease or BCLC Stage B disease not amenable to locoregional therapy or refractory to locoregional therapy, and not amenable to a curative treatment approach
  • Has a Child-Pugh Class A liver score within 7 days of first dose of study drug
  • Has a predicted life expectancy >3 months
  • Has measurable disease based on Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) 1.1 as confirmed by the blinded central imaging vendor
  • Has a performance status of 0 or 1 using the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Scale within 7 days of first dose of study drug
  • For Cohort 1: has documented objective radiographic progression after stopping treatment with sorafenib or else intolerance to sorafenib
  • Is willing to use an adequate method of contraception for the course of the study through 120 days after the last dose of study drug (male and female participants of childbearing potential)
  • Demonstrates adequate organ function

Exclusion Criteria

  • Is currently participating and receiving study therapy or has participated in a study of an investigational agent and received study therapy, herbal/complementary oral or IV medicine, or used an investigational device within 4 weeks of the first dose of study drug. Participant must also have recovered from associated therapy (i.e., to Grade ≤1 or baseline) and from adverse events due to any prior therapy
  • For Cohort 1: has received sorafenib within 14 days of first dose of study drug
  • Has had esophageal or gastric variceal bleeding within the last 6 months
  • Has clinically apparent ascites on physical examination
  • Has portal vein invasion at the main portal (Vp4), inferior vena cava, or cardiac involvement of HCC based on imaging
  • Has had encephalopathy in the last 6 months. Participants on rifaximin or lactulose to control their encephalopathy are not allowed
  • Had a solid organ or hematologic transplant
  • For Cohort 1: had prior systemic therapy for HCC other than sorafenib, or intercurrent local therapy to the liver tumor between sorafenib and study drug
  • For Cohort 2: had prior systemic therapy in the advanced disease setting
  • Has active autoimmune disease that has required systemic treatment in past 2 years (i.e., with use of disease-modifying agents, corticosteroids, or immunosuppressive drugs)
  • Has a diagnosis of immunodeficiency or is receiving systemic steroid therapy or any other form of immunosuppressive therapy within 7 days prior to the first dose of study drug
  • Has a diagnosed additional malignancy within 5 years for Cohort 1 and 3 years for Cohort 2 prior to first dose of study treatment with the exception of curatively treated basal cell carcinoma of the skin, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and/or curatively resected in situ cervical and/or breast cancers
  • Has radiographically detectable central nervous system (CNS) metastases and/or carcinomatous meningitis
  • Has evidence or history of interstitial lung disease or active noninfectious pneumonitis
  • Has an active infection requiring systemic therapy
  • Has a known severe hypersensitivity to pembrolizumab, its active substance and/or any of its excipients
  • Has known psychiatric or substance abuse disorders that would interfere with cooperation with the requirements of the study
  • Is pregnant or breastfeeding, or expecting to conceive or father children within the projected duration of the trial, starting with the screening visit through 120 days after the last dose of trial treatment
  • Has received prior immunotherapy including anti-programmed death-1 (anti-PD-1), anti-PD-ligand-1 (anti-PD-L1), or anti-PD-L2 agents, or if the participant has previously participated in clinical studies with pembrolizumab (MK-3475)
  • Has a known history of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Has untreated active Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • For Cohort 1: has dual infection with HBV/Hepatitis C virus (HCV) or other hepatitis combinations at study entry
  • For Cohort 2: has dual active HBV infection (Hepatitis B surface antigen positive and/or detectable HBV deoxyribonucleic acid [DNA]) and HCV infection (detectable HCV ribonucleic acid [RNA]) at study entry
  • Has received a live vaccine within 30 days of planned start of study drug (Cycle 1, Day 1)


City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
UC Irvine Health / Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Contact: Tara Elisabeth Seery
Phone: 877-827-8839
San Francisco
UCSF Medical Center-Mount Zion
Contact: Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Phone: 877-827-3222


Iowa City
University of Iowa / Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

New York

Montefiore Medical Center-Weiler Hospital
New York
NYP / Columbia University Medical Center / Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center

North Carolina

Wake Forest University Health Sciences


OHSU Knight Cancer Institute
Contact: Adel Kardosh
Phone: 503-494-8534


University of Pennsylvania / Abramson Cancer Center
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)
Contact: Weijing Sun
Phone: 412-647-8073


Baylor College of Medicine / Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Trial Phase Phase II

Trial Type Treatment

Lead Organization
Merck and Company Inc

  • Primary ID 3475-224
  • Secondary IDs NCI-2016-00516, 163434, 2015-004566-28, KEYNOTE-224, MK-3475-224
  • ID NCT02702414