Pembrolizumab plus lenvatinib in second-line and third-line patients with pleural mesothelioma (PEMMELA): a single-arm phase 2 study.



The combination of pembrolizumab, an anti-PD-1 antibody, and lenvatinib, an antiangiogenic multikinase inhibitor, shows synergistic activity in preclinical and clinical studies in solid tumours. We assessed the clinical activity of this combination therapy in patients with pleural mesothelioma who progressed after platinum-pemetrexed chemotherapy.


In this single-arm, single-centre, phase 2 study, done at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, eligible patients (aged ≥18 years) with pleural mesothelioma with an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0-1, progression after chemotherapy (no previous immunotherapy), and measurable disease according to the modified Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumours (mRECIST) for mesothelioma version 1.1. Patients received 200 mg intravenous pembrolizumab once every 3 weeks plus 20 mg oral lenvatinib once per day for up to 2 years or until disease progression, development of unacceptable toxicity, or withdrawal of consent. The primary endpoint was objective response rate identified by a local investigator according to mRECIST version 1.1. This trial is registered with, NCT04287829, and is recruiting for the second cohort.


Pembrolizumab plus lenvatinib showed promising anti-tumour activity in patients with pleural mesothelioma with considerable toxicity, similar to that in previous studies. Available evidence from the literature suggests a high starting dose of lenvatinib for optimal anti-tumour activity. This, however, demands a high standard of supportive care. The combination therapy of pembrolizumab and lenvatinib warrants further investigation in pleural mesothelioma.


Between March 5, 2021, and Jan 31, 2022, 42 patients were screened, of whom 38 were included in the primary endpoint and safety analyses (median age 71 years [IQR 65-75], 33 [87%] male and five [13%] female) . At data cutoff (Jan 31, 2023), with a median follow-up of 17·7 months (IQR 13·8-19·4), 22 (58%; 95% CI 41-74) of 38 patients had an objective response. The independent review showed an objective response in 17 (45%; 95% CI 29-62) of 38 patients. Serious treatment-related adverse events occurred in ten (26%) patients, including one treatment-related death due to myocardial infarction. The most common treatment-related grade 3 or worse adverse events were hypertension (eight patients [21%]) and anorexia and lymphopenia (both four patients [11%]). In 29 (76%) of 38 patients, at least one dose reduction or discontinuation of lenvatinib was required.


Merck Sharp & Dohme.

More about this publication

The Lancet. Oncology
  • Volume 24
  • Issue nr. 11
  • Pages 1219-1228
  • Publication date 01-11-2023

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