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Is Keytruda FDA approved for mesothelioma?

Keytruda FDA, side effects

Is Keytruda FDA approved for mesothelioma? Let’s talk about it below, including Keytruda side effects, costs, and cancer treatment.

Keytrude was FDA approved on June 24, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Merck & Company’s immunotherapy drug Keytruda (also known as pembrolizumab) for use in patients that have metastatic or recurrent cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma on June 24, 2020. It is now approved for use in cases that are not curable by radiation or surgery.

That is good news for patients that have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, which is the form of this cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs. There is no cure for this form of mesothelioma and it is always terminal. This drug has the potential to extend the patient’s life with this and several other types of adult and childhood cancer.

Cancers that Keytruda can treat

Keytruda can cut the risk of cancer worsening or risk of death in half when given in combination with chemotherapy in comparison to using chemotherapy alone. It has shown promising results with many types of cancer.

Keytruda can be used to treat:

  • Melanoma
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
  • Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC)
  • Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL)
  • Primary Mediastinal Large B-Cell Lymphoma (PMBCL)
  • Urothelial Carcinoma
  • Microsatellite Instability-High or Mismatch Repair Deficient Cancer
  • Microsatellite Instability-High or Mismatch Repair Deficient Colorectal Cancer (CRC)
  • Gastric Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)
  • Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC)
  • Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)
  • Endometrial Carcinoma
  • Tumor Mutational Burden-High (TMB-H) Cancer
  • Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma (cSCC)

Keep in mind that not all patients diagnosed with one of these types of cancer will qualify for treatment with Keytruda. At this time, the drug has worked on approximately half of the patients who tried it.

But, those odds are better than chemotherapy alone. You’ll want to ask your doctor whether or not this drug is right for you.

Keytruda cancer treatment
Magnified malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. Photo by Nephron, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Side-effects of Keytruda

The list below is not an exhaustive one of the potential side-effects of Keytruda. You can visit this page to view a more detailed list of side-effects.


Keytruda can affect your lungs. The drug can cause pneumonitis, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

It can also cause you to develop a cough. If you already have a cough, the drug can worsen it.

Hormone glands

Keytruda can also affect the pancreas, thyroid, pituitary glands, and adrenal glands. This can cause rapid heart beat, increased sweating, and urinating more than usual.

Also, it can cause you to feel hungry or thirsty. You might lose or gain weight too.


The use of Keytruda can cause colitis. That can cause you to develop holes in your intestine. The drug can also cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and black, tarry, or bloody stools.


While approved by the FDA, keytruda can harm the liver too. The drug can cause hepatitis, nausea, and vomiting.

It can cause pain on the right side of your abdomen, yellowing of the whites of your eyes and your skin, and dark urine. Bruising or bleeding is also a known side-effect.

What does Keytruda cost?

Keytruda is quite costly at $9,724.08 per dose. Treatment with Keytruda can cost $100,000 per year.

However, in most cases you will not have to pay this all out of pocket. Your insurance will cover part of the cost.

Mesothelioma attorneys have stated that at least one company in almost every industry in the United States is involved in asbestos litigation. Why? These companies have known about the hazards posed by asbestos for decades, but they chose to expose their employees to this danger anyway.

Finally, if you do not have adequate insurance coverage and you believe a former employer or another source may be responsible for causing your mesothelioma or other cancer, you may want to speak to a lawyer. A settlement or court award could give you the funds you need to cover the cost of this treatment.

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