Immunotherapy cancer treatment for certain women with advanced cervical cancer funded on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

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October 17, 2023 10:45 am Australia/Sydney

Immuno-oncology therapy KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) has been listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in combination with certain other cancer treatments for the treatment of eligible patients with persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer and who are unsuitable for surgery or radiation.1

Australia is a long-standing world leader in cervical cancer prevention and control with nationwide screening introduced in 1991; and the adoption of the first national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program in 2007.2

Despite the success of these initiatives, inequities in cervical cancer outcomes remain with indigenous women three times more likely to die of the disease than non-Indigenous women.2,3,4

More than 70% of cervical cancer occurs in women who had never screened or who were lapsed screeners.5 With participation in cervical screening programs lower amongst some CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) women, more remains to be done to address these disparities.3,5

Women with metastatic cervical cancer face a poor prognosis with only 17.6% expected to be alive 5 years after diagnosis.6

Professor Linda Mileshkin, Director of Medical Oncology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, says, “In Australia there have been no new funded treatments introduced since 2016 for advanced cervical cancer. Combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy for the treatment of certain patients with advanced cervical cancer provides a treatment option for these women in an area of high unmet need.”

Australia is expected to be the first country to achieve WHO’s definition of cervical cancer
elimination as a public health problem, potentially as early as 2030.2

Cervical cancer indication.7 KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) in combination with platinum chemotherapy and paclitaxel, with or without bevacizumab, is indicated for the treatment of patients with persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer whose tumours express PD-L1 [Combined Positive Score (CPS) ≥1] as determined by a validated test.

Minimum Consumer Medicine Information.8 KEYTRUDA contains the active ingredient pembrolizumab. KEYTRUDA is a medicine that may treat certain cancers by working with the immune system. KEYTRUDA may be given in combination with other anticancer medicines. Not everybody is suitable to have KEYTRUDA as a treatment for their cancer. Before using KEYTRUDA, a doctor will check if a person with cancer has a disease of the immune system like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, or lupus; had an organ transplant (like a kidney transplant) or a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant that used donor stem cells (allogeneic); have pneumonia or swelling of the lungs (called pneumonitis); have liver damage. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your health care provider as KEYTRUDA can harm your unborn baby. Effective birth control must be used during treatment and for at least 4 months after the final dose of KEYTRUDA. Tell your health care provider if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Like all medicines, KEYTRUDA can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. KEYTRUDA can cause the immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in any area of the body and can affect the way they work. Sometimes these problems can become severe or life-threatening. More than one side effect can occur at the same time and side effects can arise at any time during treatment and even after the treatment has ended. These can include immune system problems affecting: the lungs; intestines; liver, kidneys; skin, hormone glands and blood sugar levels. Infusion reactions can sometimes be severe and life-threatening. Rejection of a transplanted organ; and complications in people with a bone marrow transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic) can occur. Very common side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, itching, rash, joint pain, back pain, feeling tired, cough, patches of skin which have lost colour, stomach pain, decreased sodium levels in the blood, fever, infections of the upper respiratory tract, low levels of thyroid hormone, a decreased number of white blood cells (which are important in fighting infection) in patients with primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma. These are not the only side effects that occur with KEYTRUDA.

For further information read the KEYTRUDA Consumer Medicine Information or speak with your healthcare professional.

PBS information: Authority required STREAMLINED. KEYTRUDA is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the treatment of persistent, recurrent, or metastatic (Stage IVB) cervical cancer. Further criteria apply. Consult the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at for full information.