SUMMARY: The FDA on April 16, 2018, granted approvals to OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) and YERVOY® (Ipilimumab) in combination, for the treatment of intermediate or poor-risk, previously untreated advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC). SUTENT® (Sunitinib) is a MultiKinase Inhibitor (MKI) which simultaneously targets the tumor cell wall, vascular endothelial cell wall as well as the pericyte/fibroblast/vascular/ smooth vessel cell wall and is capable of specifically binding to tyrosine kinases, inhibiting the earlier signaling events and thereby inhibits phosphorylation of VEGF receptor, PDGF receptor, FLT-3 and c-KIT. SUTENT® is the standard first-line intervention for treatment naïve patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma. In a large, multi-center, randomized, phase III study, the median Progression Free Survival (PFS) with SUTENT® was 9.5 months, the Objective Response Rate (ORR) was 25%, and the median Overall Survival was 29.3 months, when compared with Interferon Alfa, in patients with treatment-naïve Renal Cell Carcinoma. This was however associated with a high rate of hematological toxicities.
OPDIVO® is a fully human, immunoglobulin G4 monoclonal antibody that binds to the PD-1 receptor and blocks its interaction with PD-L1 and PD-L2, whereas YERVOY® is a fully human immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody that blocks Immune checkpoint protein/receptor CTLA-4 (Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Antigen 4, also known as CD152). Blocking the Immune checkpoint proteins unleashes the T cells, resulting in T cell proliferation, activation and a therapeutic response. OPDIVO® was approved by the FDA in November 2015, for the treatment of advanced RCC in patients who had received prior anti-angiogenic therapy, based on an Overall Survival benefit. YERVOY® is approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Combining OPDIVO® with YERVOY® (Combination immunotherapy) has shown promising efficacy in multiple tumor types, including advanced RCC, with higher Objective Response Rate than either agent alone, and is presently approved for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma.
This FDA approval was based on CheckMate 214, a randomized open-label phase III trial in which a combination of OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® (N=550) was compared with SUTENT® (N=546), among treatment naïve, clear-cell, advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) patients. The authors randomly assigned 1096 patients in a 1:1 ratio to receive OPDIVO® 3 mg/kg IV plus YERVOY® 1 mg/kg IV every 3 weeks for four doses (induction phase) followed by OPDIVO® monotherapy at 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks (maintenance phase) or SUTENT® 50 mg orally once daily for 4 weeks, of each 6-week cycle. Four hundred and twenty five (425) patients in the combination group and 422 patients in the SUTENT® group had intermediate or poor-risk patients. It is estimated that approximately 75% of patients with advanced RCC have intermediate or poor-risk disease and have worse outcomes than those with favorable-risk disease. The coprimary end points were Overall Survival, Objective Response Rate and Progression Free Survival among patients with intermediate or poor prognostic risk disease.
At a median follow-up of 25.2 months, the combination of OPDIVO® and YERVOY® had a significant Overall Survival benefit over SUTENT®. The 18-month Overall Survival rate was 75% with combination immunotherapy and 60% with SUTENT®. The median Overall Survival was not reached with combination immunotherapy versus 26.0 months with SUTENT® (HR=0.63; P<0.001). The Objective Response Rate was 42% with combination immunotherapy versus 27% with SUTENT® (P<0.001), and the Complete Response rate was 9% versus 1% respectively. The median Progression Free Survival was 11.6 months and 8.4 months, respectively but this was not statistically significant per the prespecified threshold. The benefit with combination immunotherapy was not noted in patients with favorable-risk disease. The superior outcomes with combination immunotherapy in patients with intermediate and poor-risk RCC may very well be related to a higher tumor mutational load in this group of patients, compared to those with favorable-risk disease.
In exploratory analyses among 776 intermediate and poor-risk patients, who had quantifiable PD-L1 expression in this study, Overall Survival was longer with Immunotherapy combination compared with SUTENT®, across PD-L1 expression levels. In patients with PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater, the 18-month Overall Survival rate was 81% with combination immunotherapy and 53% with SUTENT®, and the median Overall Survival was not reached versus 19.6 months respectively (HR=0.45). Among patients with PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater, the Objective Response Rate was 58% versus 22% for SUTENT® (P<0.001), the median PFS was 22.8 and 5.9 months, respectively (HR=0.46). A similar trend was noted in patients with PD-L1 expression 5% or greater, as compared with patients with less than 5% PD-L1 expression. Treatment discontinuation, related to adverse events occurred in 22% of the patients in the combination immunotherapy group and 12% in the SUTENT® group.
It was concluded that treatment with a combination of OPDIVO® and YERVOY® resulted in a significantly higher Overall Survival and Objective Response Rates, compared with SUTENT®, among intermediate and poor-risk, previously untreated patients, with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma. Nivolumab plus Ipilimumab versus Sunitinib in Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma. Motzer RJ, Tannir NM, McDermott DF, et al. N Engl J Med 2018; 378:1277-1290