For patients diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who also live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), treatment options can feel particularly limited. Managing both conditions presents unique challenges, and concerns about potential side effects and quality of life often weigh heavily.

Pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug, has shown promise in treating advanced NSCLC. However, its effectiveness and safety profile, specifically for patients with NSCLC and COPD, needs further investigation.

That’s why a new Phase II clinical trial is underway to evaluate pembrolizumab as a first-line treatment in this patient population. This trial holds the potential to provide crucial insights into how immunotherapy may benefit NSCLC patients with COPD, giving hope for an effective therapy that also prioritizes their unique needs and challenges.

This blog will outline the trial’s design, eligibility criteria, and potential implications and highlight the importance of research focused on patients facing these dual diagnoses.

Trial Overview

This clinical trial is designed as a prospective, single-arm, single-center, phase II study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of pembrolizumab as a first-line treatment in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who also suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The trial aims to enroll 30 participants receiving 200 mg of pembrolizumab every three weeks.

Rationale for Using Pembrolizumab

Pembrolizumab, a PD-1 blocking antibody, has shown promising results in improving survival rates in advanced NSCLC without COPD.

Given its mechanism of enhancing the immune response against cancer cells, there is a strong rationale for investigating its effectiveness and safety in NSCLC patients with COPD. Due to their compromised pulmonary function, this subgroup of patients often faces a more challenging prognosis and limited treatment options.

Study Objectives and Endpoints

The primary objectives of this phase II clinical trial focus on assessing the efficacy of pembrolizumab in treating patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The efficacy will be measured through critical metrics: progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). These indicators will help determine how well pembrolizumab can extend the lives of these patients without their cancer worsening.

Secondary Objectives

The study’s secondary objectives include evaluating broader impacts on patient health and quality of life. These encompass:

  • Lung Function: Assessing whether pembrolizumab affects respiratory capability in patients with existing COPD.
  • COPD Exacerbation Rates: Monitoring if the treatment influences the frequency or severity of COPD exacerbations, a common complication in these patients.
  • Quality of Life: Using validated scales to measure changes in how the treatment affects patients’ overall well-being and daily functioning.


In this clinical trial, pembrolizumab is administered 200 mg every three weeks. This dosing regimen is selected based on its established efficacy and safety profile in previous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) studies.

Criteria for Patient Eligibility and Enrollment

The trial aims to enroll 30 patients with advanced NSCLC who also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Eligible participants must meet specific inclusion criteria, such as a confirmed diagnosis of NSCLC, measurable disease as per RECIST criteria, and a documented history of COPD.

Patients with certain conditions, like uncontrolled asthma or a history of severe hypersensitivity to pembrolizumab components, are excluded to ensure patient safety and the integrity of the trial results.

Safety and Monitoring

Safety and Monitoring - Safe Therapeutics

The trial incorporates rigorous safety assessments to monitor and manage potential adverse effects associated with pembrolizumab. Regular evaluations include comprehensive blood tests, organ function tests, and monitoring for specific immune-related adverse events (irAEs) such as colitis, hepatitis, and pneumonitis. Management protocols are in place to promptly address adverse effects, involving dose adjustments or treatment discontinuation depending on severity.

Strategies for Monitoring Patient Responses

Patient responses are monitored through imaging studies, physical examinations, and laboratory tests at predefined intervals. This helps assess the tumor’s response to treatment and any changes in the patient’s overall health status.

Based on these observations, adjustments to the treatment protocol, such as modifying the dosage or frequency of pembrolizumab administration, are made to optimize therapeutic outcomes while minimizing risks.

Regular follow-up appointments are critical to manage potential complications swiftly and effectively.

Significance and Expected Outcomes

This study is crucial for addressing significant gaps in our current understanding of how immunotherapy affects patients with both advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

There is a pressing need for tailored therapeutic strategies that consider the complexities of treating cancer in patients compromised by significant comorbidities.

Potential Impact on Treatment Guidelines and Patient Care

The results from this trial could reshape treatment guidelines by providing evidence-based recommendations for using pembrolizumab in a high-risk, under-studied population.

Success in this trial might lead to more personalized treatment approaches, enhancing both efficacy and safety for patients with NSCLC and COPD, ultimately improving their overall quality of life and treatment outcomes.


The results of this Phase II clinical trial have the potential to significantly impact the treatment landscape for patients with advanced NSCLC and COPD. While we await those findings, this study represents a crucial step forward.

It acknowledges the specific needs of a patient population often underrepresented in clinical trials. By exploring the efficacy and safety of pembrolizumab in this context, we move closer to offering personalized treatment options that address both cancer progression and the challenges posed by COPD.

This trial symbolizes hope and a commitment to finding better solutions for patients and caregivers. It highlights the importance of ongoing research and the critical role clinical trials play in expanding treatment options for those with complex medical conditions.

Let’s continue to support and advocate for studies that prioritize the needs of all patients, ensuring that nobody is left behind in the fight against cancer.