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Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)

How does this medicine work?

Pembrolizumab (pem-broh-LIH-zoo-mab) is a type of targeted medication known as a monoclonal antibody. These work to destroy cancer cells by locating and binding to them anywhere in the body.

How is the medicine given?

Pembrolizumab is given as an infusion into a vein (IV) in the hospital or clinic.

What are the side effects?


  • Cough        
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Nausea


  • Fever
  • Swelling of legs/feet/face
  • Weakness
  • Low blood counts
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Liver changes


  • Stomach pain
  • Joint pain
  • Infusion reactions
  • Thyroid changes
  • High blood sugar

When should I call the clinic?

Call the clinic if:

  • Fever, bleeding, unusual bruising
  • Swelling of legs/feet/face
  • Cough, shortness of breath
  • Seizure, loss of consciousness
  • Decreased urination
  • Signs of an allergic reaction:

            - rash or hives

            - wheezing

            - trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

During the infusion, you will have frequent vital signs done to monitor for any reaction.

If you are pregnant, could become pregnant, or are breastfeeding, DO NOT take or administer Pembrolizumab without checking with your health care provider first.

Males taking Pembrolizumab and their partners should use birth control to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 4 months after the last Pembrolizumab dose.

You may be asked to provide a urine sample to monitor your kidney function.

You will have regular blood tests while receiving this medication. This is to make sure your heart, lungs, and kidneys are working properly.

You and your child should know the names of all the medicines he or she is taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your child’s care.


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the oncology clinic or pharmacy.

Reviewed by Hem/Onc 12/2016

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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