Lung cancer with brain metastases remaining in continuous complete remission due to pembrolizumab and temozolomide: a case report


Immunotherapy has been shown to improve the overall survival (OS) in patients with advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) without driver gene mutations. However, monotherapy with immunotherapy alone or combined with chemotherapy in NSCLC patients with untreated brain metastases (BM) is still under debate. Data regarding treatment of BM with immunotherapy and temozolomide (TMZ) in patients with NSCLC is rare.

Case presentation:

A 60-year-old male due to cough and expectoration presented in our hospital. Chest computed tomography (CT), brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and immunohistochemistry of a mediastinal lymph node biopsy were administered, he was diagnosed with stage IIIB lung adenocarcinoma. Without driver gene mutations, he was treated with platinum-based chemotherapy because he refused to accept concurrent radiation therapy (RT). Heavy cough companied with hemoptysis and chest CT scan both revealed progressive disease (PD) after 6 cycles of chemotherapy. Immunotherapy was consequently considered, while two metastatic lesions in the brain were confirmed after combined treatment of pembrolizumab with docetaxel. TMZ was administered in combination with pembrolizumab (200 mg, day 1). A new metastasis in the right occipital lobe was detected on a scan 1 month later, though the other 2 lesions continued to shrink. The treatment was continued, MRI and CT scans suggested complete response (CR) was achieved for both the BM and lung lesions after 3 cycles. Consolidation therapy with TMZ and pembrolizumab (100 mg) per month was considered for another 7 months. Maintenance monotherapy with pembrolizumab (100 mg) was selected because of his stable CR status. At 59 months since diagnosis, the patient remains alive, with CR for both the primary lesions and BM. The patient experienced slight numbness on each side of his feet. There was no occurrence of adverse effects greater than grade 3.


The data indicates that immunotherapy combined with TMZ for untreated BM in NSCLC patients maybe an efficient and safe decision making therapeutic choice. Despite the encouraging efficacy of the combination, it is an isolated case and the speculation of synergism need to be proved in further pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies even in large randomized controlled trials.


Pembrolizumab; brain metastases (BM); case report; non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); temozolomide (TMZ).

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