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Immunotherapy Monoclonal Antibody

Brand names:


Other names:

Anti-PD-1 Monoclonal Antibody MK-3475; Lambrolizumab; MK-3475

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What is Pembrolizumab?

Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) is a type of immunotherapy called a monoclonal antibody. This medicine works by targeting a protein called PD-L1. Pembrolizumab is considered a type of immunotherapy because it helps the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells. It is also a targeted therapy because the medicine is specific to certain cell features and “targets” those cells.

Pembrolizumab is usually given as an IV infusion once every 3 weeks. Blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and temperature will be checked regularly during and after the infusion to watch for infusion-related side effects.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and glucose levels and to monitor kidney, liver, and thyroid function.

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Given as a liquid into a vein by IV

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Possible Pembrolizumab Side Effects

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Bone, joint, or muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Rash, itching, dry skin
  • Cough, shortness of breath
  • Thyroid problems
  • High blood sugar
  • Low sodium levels in the blood
  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Symptoms of a common cold (runny nose, sneezing, nose and throat irritation)
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Infusion-related reactions: Symptoms may include chills, shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, low blood pressure, pain in the chest, swelling of the face or neck
  • Complications associated with stem cell transplant using donor stem cells (allogeneic stem cell transplant): Serious complications may occur when donor cells attack the patient’s organs. If you are considering an allogeneic stem cell transplant, tell your doctor that you have received nivolumab therapy.

Not all patients who take pembrolizumab will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Some patients may have a reaction to this medicine. Let a nurse know how you are feeling during the infusion.
  • Your care team may recommend diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and other medicines to help prevent flu-like symptoms.
  • The care team may recommend medicines and/or foods to help manage nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Female patients who are sexually active should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 4 months after completion of therapy.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Pembrolizumab resources