KEYTRUDA for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

What is lung cancer?

With all types of cancer, abnormal cells in the body begin to divide in an uncontrolled way. These cells may spread into other tissues or cause a growth called a tumour. Most cancers start because of gene changes that happen over a person’s lifetime. Other cancers start because of faulty genes passed down through families.

There are two main lung cancer types - non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). This page will help you find out about these, as well as the different stages of lung cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer

Lung cancer doesn’t usually display symptoms in its earliest stages. When the disease is more advanced, these signs and symptoms may be noticed:

  • A new cough that won’t go away
  • Changes in a chronic cough
  • Coughing up blood, even a little
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Bone pain
  • Headache

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

NSCLC accounts for about 85% of lung cancers diagnosed in patients and includes:


  • Begins in the lining cells of the lungs
  • Accounts for about 30% of NSCLC diagnoses

Adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS) - also known as bronchioloalveolar carcinoma or BAC

  • A rare type of adenocarcinoma that begins in the alveoli
  • Accounts for about 3% of NSCLC diagnoses

Minimally invasive adenocarcinoma (MIA)

  • Smaller adenocarcinoma lung tumours

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Starts in the cells that line the passages of the respiratory tract
  • Accounts for about 30% of NSCLC diagnoses

Large cell carcinoma

  • A faster-growing form of NSCLC
  • Makes up about 9% of NSCLC diagnoses

Large cell neuroendocrine tumours

  • Fastest growing type of NSCLC
  • Makes up about 2% of NSCLC diagnoses

Stages of non-small cell lung cancer

Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

Small cell lung cancer tends to grow more quickly than NSCLC and accounts for around 15% of lung cancers.

More about advanced lung cancer

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

Treating lung cancer


KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 50mg powder for infusion
KEYTRUDA is a Prescription Only Medicine Use: KEYTRUDA is used:
  • in the treatment of melanoma which cannot be removed by surgery alone or when it has spread to multiple sites in the body.
  • in the treatment of a kind of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
  • in the treatment of classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL)
  • in the treatment of urothelial carcinoma, including bladder cancer
  • in the treatment of a kind of head and neck cancer called head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)

Side effects: Immune-mediated side effects including inflammation of the lungs, colon, liver, kidneys, pituitary gland, brain, eye, muscles, nervous system, pancreas, and heart, thyroid disorders, type 1 diabetes mellitus. Severe skin reactions including Steven-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Severe infusion reactions including hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis. Transplant recipients: rejection of a transplanted organ, graft-versus-host-disease (in people with a bone marrow transplant using donor cells). Very common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, itching, rash, joint pain, back pain, feeling tired, cough, patches of discoloured skin, stomach pain, decreased levels of sodium in blood. Tiredness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, shortness of breath, rash, itching, headache, hair loss, and, infections of the upper respiratory tract were reported when given in combination with chemotherapy. You may experience more than one side effect at the same time.

All medicines have risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA is right for you. KEYTRUDA is a funded medicine for melanoma patients– restrictions apply. KEYTRUDA is an unfunded medicine for NSCLC, HNSCC, cHL and urothelial carcinoma patients. Ask your health professional the cost of the medicine and any other medical fees that may apply. Use only as directed and if symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your doctor, pharmacist, or health professional.

Based on data sheet prepared 17 July 2018. Marketed by: Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited, Newmarket, Auckland. . For additional product information, consult the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI), available on request, phone 0800 500 673 or refer to the Medsafe website

This site is intended for New Zealand residents.

References to support this are available on request.

MSD recommends people always seek the medical advice of their healthcare professional.

Copyright © 2018 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2018 Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited. Level 3, 123 Carlton Gore Road, Newmarket, Auckland. All rights reserved.

ONCO-1273154-0000 First Issued November 2017 TAPS NA10076 essence MSD8360

Updated: October 2018