OPDIVO® (nivolumab) + chemotherapy (fluoropyrimidine + platinum-based) for the first-line (1L) treatment of metastatic gastric cancer, gastroesophageal junction cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma, regardless of PD-L1 status

BMS Sponsored Content

By Dr Rahul RavillaSponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb
Dr Ravilla is a paid consultant for BMS and was compensated for his contribution in drafting this content.

Introduction: Overview of gastroesophageal cancers

Gastroesophageal cancers consist of a group of heterogeneous tumors, including gastric cancer (GC), gastroesophageal junction cancer (GEJC), and esophageal cancer (EC).1 The majority of GC and GEJC are adenocarcinomas, while EC is categorized into 2 main histological subtypes: esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).2,3 EAC is the predominant histology in the United States, contributing to ~62% of all EC cases.3,4 EAC incidence rates have been increasing over the past 5 decades in Western countries.4 Recent trends in the United States also suggest increasing incidence rates of GC overall in young adults (<50 years old).5

Gastric and esophageal cancers can be aggressive diseases with 5-year relative survival rates of <6% in the metastatic setting in the United States.7,8 Worldwide, GC and EC represent the fourth and sixth most common causes of cancer-related deaths, respectively.5

Approximately 15%–20% of gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas overexpress human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)9. In this article, we will focus on HER2-negative gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas. Historically, chemotherapy has been the standard of care for the 1L treatment in this setting.10 In 2021,chemoimmunotherapy combinations were approved for appropriate patients with certain types of gastroesophageal cancers.11,12

OPDIVO + chemotherapy in 1L metastatic GC/GEJC/EAC

Currently, OPDIVO + fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-containing chemotherapy (chemo) is the only 1L chemoimmunotherapy regimen approved in metastatic non-HER2+ GC, GEJC, and EAC regardless of PD-L1 (programmed death ligand 1) status.11,13,14 The combination was approved based on the results of Checkmate 649, a global phase 3 study in 1L metastatic GC/GEJC/EAC patients with ECOG performance status 0-1.11,13 Key exclusion criteria included known HER2+ status and untreated CNS metastases.11 The study recruited all eligible patients regardless of PD-L1 expression.11,13

Checkmate 649 enrolled 1581 patients randomized 1:1 to OPDIVO + chemo (n=789) or chemo alone (n=792). A total of 473 patients in the OPDIVO + chemo arm and 482 patients in the chemo arm had tumors that expressed PD-L1 combined positive score (CPS) ≥5. The dual primary endpoints were overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) in PD-L1 CPS ≥5. Key secondary endpoints included OS in PD-L1 CPS ≥1, OS in all randomized patients, and objective response rate (ORR) in all randomized patients. Checkmate 649 evaluated OPDIVO (10 mg/mL) injection for intravenous (IV) use (q2w or q3w) in combination with physician’s choice of either fluorouracil + oxaliplatin + leucovorin (mFOLFOX6) given q2w or capecitabine + oxaliplatin (CapeOx) given q3w. OPDIVO dosing was aligned with chemotherapy schedule. Treatment continued until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 2 years. Baseline characteristics were consistent between all randomized and PD-L1 CPS ≥5 patients.13

There are Warnings and Precautions associated with OPDIVO to keep in mind. These include severe and fatal immune-mediated adverse reactions, infusion-related reactions, complications of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT); embryo-fetal toxicity, and increased mortality in patients with multiple myeloma when OPDIVO is added to a thalidomide analogue and dexamethasone, which is not recommended outside of controlled clinical trials.11 Additional information related to Warnings and Precautions can be found in the Important Safety Information below.

In the primary analysis (minimum[min] follow-up of 12.1 months[mos]), OPDIVO + chemo demonstrated superior OS in all randomized, PD-L1 CPS ≥1, and PD-L1 CPS ≥5 patients as compared to chemotherapy alone. In all randomized patients, mOS was 13.8 mos (95% confidence interval [CI]: 12.6–14.6) with OPDIVO + chemo vs 11.6 mos (95% CI: 10.9–12.5) with chemo (HR=0.80;95% CI: 0.71–0.90; P=0.0002). In PD-L1 CPS≥1 (n=1296), mOS was 14.0 mos (95% CI: 12.6–15.0) with OPDIVO + chemo vs 11.3 mos (95% CI: 10.6–12.3) with chemo (HR=0.77; 95% CI: 0.68–0.88; P<0.0001). In PD-L1 CPS≥5 (n=955), mOS was 14.4 mos (95% CI: 13.1–16.2) with OPDIVO + chemo vs 11.1 mos (95% CI: 10.0–12.1) with chemo (HR=0.71; 95% CI: 0.61–0.83; P<0.0001).11 The dual primary endpoint, mPFS in CPS ≥5 patients, was 7.7 mos (95% CI: 7.0–9.2) with OPDIVO + chemo vs 6.0 mos (95% CI: 5.6–6.9) with chemo (HR=0.68; 95% CI: 0.58–0.79; P<0.0001).

*FOLFOX or CapeOx.11†Assessed using blinded independent central review (BICR).11 ‡Based on confirmed response.11§Secondary endpoint.13

Exploratory OS analyses were reported for the primary (min follow-up 12.1 months) and follow-up (min follow-up 24 months) analysis. The 12-month OS rate in all randomized patients was 55% with OPDIVO + chemo vs 48% with chemo.13 The follow-up analysis at 24.0 months reported a mOS of 13.8 mos (95% CI: 12.4–14.5) with OPDIVO + chemo vs 11.6 mos (95% CI: 10.9–12.5) with chemo in all randomized patients (HR=0.79; (95% CI: 0.71–0.88) and 14.4 mos (95% CI: 13.1–16.2) with OPDIVO + chemo vs 11.1 mos with chemo (95% CI: 10.0–12.1)  in PD-L1 CPS ≥5 (HR=0.70; (95% CI: 0.60–0.81).14 The 24.0-month OS rate was 28% vs 19% for OPDIVO + chemo vs chemo, respectively, in all randomized patients.14

A secondary endpoint (min follow-up of 12.1 mos), ORR in all randomized patients, was 47% (95% CI: 43–50) with OPDIVO + chemo vs 37% (95% CI: 34–40) with chemo alone. Complete response (CR) rates were 10% vs 7% and partial response (PR) rates were 37% vs 30% for OPDIVO + chemo vs chemo, respectively.11

In Checkmate 649, the most common adverse reactions reported in ≥20% of patients treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy were peripheral neuropathy, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, constipation, and musculoskeletal pain. Of the ARs occurring in ≥10% of patients, those which were Grade 3–4 (OPDIVO + chemo vs chemo) were peripheral neuropathy (7% vs 4.8%), headache (0.8 vs 0.3%), nausea (3.2% vs 3.7%), diarrhea (5% vs 3.7%), vomiting (4.2% vs 4.2%), abdominal pain (2.8% vs 2.6%), constipation (0.6% vs 0.4%), stomatitis (1.8% vs 0.8%), fatigue (7% vs 5%), pyrexia (1% vs 0.4%), edema (0.5% vs 0.1%), decreased appetite (3.6% vs 2.5%), hypoalbuminemia (0.3% vs 0.3%), weight decreased (1.3% vs 0.7%), increased lipase (7% vs 3.7%), increased amylase (3.1% vs 0.4%), musculoskeletal pain (1.3% vs 2%), rash (1.7% vs 0.1%), palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia syndrome (1.5% vs 0.8%), cough (0.1% vs 0%) and upper respiratory tract infection (0.1% vs 0.1%).

OPDIVO and/or chemotherapy were discontinued in 44% of patients and at least one dose was withheld in 76% of patients due to an adverse reaction. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 52% of patients treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy. The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in ≥2% of patients treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy were vomiting (3.7%), pneumonia (3.6%), anemia (3.6%), pyrexia (2.8%), diarrhea (2.7%), febrile neutropenia (2.6%), and pneumonitis (2.4%). Fatal adverse reactions occurred in 16 (2.0%) patients who were treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy; these included pneumonitis (4 patients), febrile neutropenia (2 patients), stroke (2 patients), gastrointestinal toxicity, intestinal mucositis, septic shock, pneumonia, infection, gastrointestinal bleeding, mesenteric vessel thrombosis, and disseminated intravascular coagulation.11


Summary/conclusions

OPDIVO, in combination with fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-containing chemotherapy, is an approved treatment option for 1L metastatic non-HER2+ GC/GEJC/EAC regardless of PD-L1 status.11 This approval is based on the Checkmate 649 study, which at the primary analysis demonstrated superior OS with OPDIVO + chemotherapy versus chemotherapy in all randomized patients.11

1L=first line; chemo=chemotherapy; CI=confidence interval; CNS=central nervous system; ECOG=Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group; GEJC=gastroesophageal junction cancer; HR=hazard ratio; mo=month; mOS=median OS; q2w=every two weeks; q4w=every four weeks.

Indication

OPDIVO, in combination with fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-containing chemotherapy, is indicated for the treatment of patients with advanced or metastatic gastric cancer, gastroesophageal junction cancer, and esophageal adenocarcinoma.11

Important Safety Information

Severe and Fatal Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions

• Immune-mediated adverse reactions listed herein may not include all possible severe and fatal immune-mediated adverse reactions.
• Immune-mediated adverse reactions, which may be severe or fatal, can occur in any organ system or tissue. While immune-mediated adverse reactions usually manifest during treatment, they can also occur after discontinuation of OPDIVO. Early identification and management are essential to ensure safe use of OPDIVO. Monitor for signs and symptoms that may be clinical manifestations of underlying immune-mediated adverse reactions. Evaluate clinical chemistries including liver enzymes, creatinine, and thyroid function at baseline and periodically during treatment with OPDIVO. In cases of suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, initiate appropriate workup to exclude alternative etiologies, including infection. Institute medical management promptly, including specialty consultation as appropriate.
• Withhold or permanently discontinue OPDIVO depending on severity (please see section 2 Dosage and Administration in the accompanying Full Prescribing Information). In general, if OPDIVO interruption or discontinuation is required, administer systemic corticosteroid therapy (1 to 2 mg/kg/day prednisone or equivalent) until improvement to Grade 1 or less. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Consider administration of other systemic immunosuppressants in patients whose immune-mediated adverse reactions are not controlled with corticosteroid therapy. Toxicity management guidelines for adverse reactions that do not necessarily require systemic steroids (e.g., endocrinopathies and dermatologic reactions) are discussed below.

Immune-Mediated Pneumonitis
• OPDIVO can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis. The incidence of pneumonitis is higher in patients who have received prior thoracic radiation. In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, immune-mediated pneumonitis occurred in 3.1% (61/1994) of patients, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.9%), and Grade 2 (2.1%).

Immune-Mediated Colitis
• OPDIVO can cause immune-mediated colitis. A common symptom included in the definition of colitis was diarrhea. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection/reactivation has been reported in patients with corticosteroid-refractory immune-mediated colitis. In cases of corticosteroid-refractory colitis, consider repeating infectious workup to exclude alternative etiologies. In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, immune-mediated colitis occurred in 2.9% (58/1994) of patients, including Grade 3 (1.7%) and Grade 2 (1%).

Immune-Mediated Hepatitis and Hepatoxicity
• OPDIVO can cause immune-mediated hepatitis. In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, immune-mediated hepatitis occurred in 1.8% (35/1994) of patients, including Grade 4 (0.2%), Grade 3 (1.3%), and Grade 2 (0.4%).

Immune-Mediated Endocrinopathies
• OPDIVO can cause primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency, immune-mediated hypophysitis, immune-mediated thyroid disorders, and Type 1 diabetes mellitus, which can present with diabetic ketoacidosis. Withhold OPDIVO depending on severity (please see section 2 Dosage and Administration in the accompanying Full Prescribing Information). For Grade 2 or higher adrenal insufficiency, initiate symptomatic treatment, including hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Hypophysitis can present with acute symptoms associated with mass effect such as headache, photophobia, or visual field defects. Hypophysitis can cause hypopituitarism; initiate hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Thyroiditis can present with or without endocrinopathy. Hypothyroidism can follow hyperthyroidism; initiate hormone replacement or medical management as clinically indicated. Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes; initiate treatment with insulin as clinically indicated.
• In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, adrenal insufficiency occurred in 1% (20/1994), including Grade 3 (0.4%) and Grade 2 (0.6%).
• In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, hypophysitis occurred in 0.6% (12/1994) of patients, including Grade 3 (0.2%) and Grade 2 (0.3%).
• In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, thyroiditis occurred in 0.6% (12/1994) of patients, including Grade 2 (0.2%).
• In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, hyperthyroidism occurred in 2.7% (54/1994) of patients, including Grade 3 (<0.1%) and Grade 2 (1.2%).
• In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, hypothyroidism occurred in 8% (163/1994) of patients, including Grade 3 (0.2%) and Grade 2 (4.8%).
• In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, diabetes occurred in 0.9% (17/1994) of patients, including Grade 3 (0.4%) and Grade 2 (0.3%), and 2 cases of diabetic ketoacidosis.

Immune-Mediated Nephritis with Renal Dysfunction
• OPDIVO can cause immune-mediated nephritis. In patients receiving OPDIVO® monotherapy, immune-mediated nephritis and renal dysfunction occurred in 1.2% (23/1994) of patients, including Grade 4 (<0.1%), Grade 3 (0.5%), and Grade 2 (0.6%).

Immune-Mediated Dermatologic Adverse Reactions
• OPDIVO can cause immune-mediated rash or dermatitis. Exfoliative dermatitis, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), and drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) has occurred with PD-1/PD-L1 blocking antibodies. Topical emollients and/or topical corticosteroids may be adequate to treat mild to moderate nonexfoliative rashes.
• Withhold or permanently discontinue OPDIVO depending on severity (please see section 2 Dosage and Administration in the accompanying Full Prescribing Information).
• In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy, immune-mediated rash occurred in 9% (171/1994) of patients, including Grade 3 (1.1%) and Grade 2 (2.2%).

Other Immune-Mediated Adverse Reactions
• The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred at an incidence of <1% (unless otherwise noted) in patients who received OPDIVO monotherapy or were reported with the use of other PD-1/PD-L1 blocking antibodies. Severe or fatal cases have been reported for some of these adverse reactions: cardiac/vascular: myocarditis, pericarditis, vasculitis; nervous system: meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and demyelination, myasthenic syndrome/myasthenia gravis (including exacerbation), Guillain-Barré syndrome, nerve paresis, autoimmune neuropathy; ocular: uveitis, iritis, and other ocular inflammatory toxicities can occur; gastrointestinal: pancreatitis to include increases in serum amylase and lipase levels, gastritis, duodenitis; musculoskeletal and connective tissue: myositis/polymyositis, rhabdomyolysis, and associated sequelae including renal failure, arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica; endocrine: hypoparathyroidism; other (hematologic/immune): hemolytic anemia, aplastic anemia, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), systemic inflammatory response syndrome, histiocytic necrotizing lymphadenitis (Kikuchi lymphadenitis), sarcoidosis, immune thrombocytopenic purpura, solid organ transplant rejection.
• Some ocular IMAR cases can be associated with retinal detachment. Various grades of visual impairment, including blindness, can occur. If uveitis occurs in combination with other immune-mediated adverse reactions, consider a Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada–like syndrome, which has been observed in patients receiving OPDIVO, as this may require treatment with systemic corticosteroids to reduce the risk of permanent vision loss.

Infusion-Related Reactions
• OPDIVO can cause severe infusion-related reactions. Discontinue OPDIVO in patients with severe (Grade 3) or life-threatening (Grade 4) infusion-related reactions. Interrupt or slow the rate of infusion in patients with mild (Grade 1) or moderate (Grade 2) infusion-related reactions. In patients receiving OPDIVO monotherapy as a 60-minute infusion, infusion-related reactions occurred in 6.4% (127/1994) of patients. In a separate trial in which patients received OPDIVO monotherapy as a 60-minute infusion or a 30-minute infusion, infusion-related reactions occurred in 2.2% (8/368) and 2.7% (10/369) of patients, respectively. Additionally, 0.5% (2/368) and 1.4% (5/369) of patients, respectively, experienced adverse reactions within 48 hours of infusion that led to dose delay, permanent discontinuation or withholding of OPDIVO.
Complications of Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
• Fatal and other serious complications can occur in patients who receive allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) before or after being treated with OPDIVO. Transplant-related complications include hyperacute graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), acute GVHD, chronic GVHD, hepatic veno-occlusive disease (VOD) after reduced intensity conditioning, and steroid-requiring febrile syndrome (without an identified infectious cause). These complications may occur despite intervening therapy between OPDIVO and allogeneic HSCT.
• Follow patients closely for evidence of transplant-related complications and intervene promptly. Consider the benefit versus risks of treatment with OPDIVO prior to or after an allogeneic HSCT.
Embryo-Fetal Toxicity
• Based on its mechanism of action and findings from animal studies, OPDIVO can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Advise pregnant women of the potential risk to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during treatment with OPDIVO and for at least 5 months after the last dose.
Increased Mortality in Patients with Multiple Myeloma when OPDIVO® is Added to a Thalidomide Analogue and Dexamethasone
• In randomized clinical trials in patients with multiple myeloma, the addition of OPDIVO to a thalidomide analogue plus dexamethasone resulted in increased mortality. Treatment of patients with multiple myeloma with a PD-1 or PD-L1 blocking antibody in combination with a thalidomide analogue plus dexamethasone is not recommended outside of controlled clinical trials.
Lactation
• There are no data on the presence of OPDIVO in human milk, the effects on the breastfed child, or the effects on milk production. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in breastfed children, advise women not to breastfeed during treatment and for 5 months after the last dose.
Serious Adverse Reactions
• In Checkmate 649, serious adverse reactions occurred in 52% of patients treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy (n=782). The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in ≥2% of patients treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy were vomiting (3.7%), pneumonia (3.6%), anemia (3.6%), pyrexia (2.8%), diarrhea (2.7%), febrile neutropenia (2.6%), and pneumonitis (2.4%). Fatal adverse reactions occurred in 16 (2.0%) patients who were treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy; these included pneumonitis (4 patients), febrile neutropenia (2 patients), stroke (2 patients), gastrointestinal toxicity, intestinal mucositis, septic shock, pneumonia, infection, gastrointestinal bleeding, mesenteric vessel thrombosis, and disseminated intravascular coagulation.
Common Adverse Reactions
• In Checkmate 649, the most common adverse reactions (≥20%) in patients treated with OPDIVO in combination with chemotherapy (n=782) were peripheral neuropathy (53%), nausea (48%), fatigue (44%), diarrhea (39%), vomiting (31%), decreased appetite (29%), abdominal pain (27%), constipation (25%), and musculoskeletal pain (20%).

Please see US Full Prescribing Information for OPDIVO.

References:

1. Paydary K, Reizine N, Catenacci DVT. Immune-checkpoint inhibition in the treatment of gastro-esophageal cancer: a closer look at the emerging evidence. Cancers (Basel). 2021;13(23):5929.
2. National Cancer Institute. Gastric cancer treatment (PDQ®)–health professional version. National Cancer Institute website. Updated April 22, 2021.Accessed December 3, 2021.
http://cancer.gov/types/stomach/hp/stomach-treatment-pdq.
3. Chen Z, Ren Y, Du XL, et al. Incidence and survival differences in esophageal cancer among ethnic groups in the United States. Oncotarget. 2017;8(29):47037-47051.
4. He H, Chen N, Hou Y, et al. Trends in the incidence and survival of patients with esophageal cancer: a SEER database analysis. Thorac Cancer. 2020;11(5):1121-1128.
5. Sung H, Ferlay J, Siegel RL, et al. Global cancer statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries.CA Cancer J Clin. 2021;71(3):209-249.
6. Arnold M, Ferlay J, van Berge Henegouwen MI, Soerjomataram I. Global burden of oesophageal and gastric cancer by histology and subsite in 2018. Gut. 2020;69(9):1564-1571.
7. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer stat facts: stomach cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Accessed December 3, 2021.
http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/stomach.html.
8. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer stat facts: esophageal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Accessed December 3, 2021.
http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/esoph.html.
9. Grieb BC, Agarwal R. HER2-Directed Therapy in Advanced Gastric and Gastroesophageal Adenocarcinoma: Triumphs and Troubles. Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2021;22(10):88.
10. ShankaranV, Xiao, H, Bertwistle D, et al. A comparison of real-world treatment patterns and clinical outcomes in patients receiving first-line therapy for unresectable advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer versus esophageal adenocarcinomas. Adv Ther. 2021;38:
707-720.
11. OPDIVO® (nivolumab) [package insert]. Princeton, NJ: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; 2021.
12. KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) [package insert]. Kenilworth, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc; 2021.
13. Janjigian YY, Shitara K, Moehler M, et al. First-line nivolumab plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone for advanced gastric, gastroesophageal junction cancer/oesophageal adenocarcinoma (CheckMate 649): a randomised, open-label, phase 3 trial. Lancet. 2021;398(10294):27-40.
14. Janjigian YY, Ajani JA, Moehler M, et al. Nivolumab plus chemotherapy or ipilimumab vs chemotherapy as first-line treatment for advanced gastric cancer/gastroesophageal junction cancer/ esophageal adenocarcinoma: CheckMate 649 study. Presentation at ESMO 2021. Abstract LBA7.
15. Data on file. BMS-REF-NIVO-0120. Princeton, NJ: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; 2021.

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1506-US-2200006 03/22

OPDIVO® Combination Improves Overall Survival in Advanced Esophageal Carcinoma

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022, about 20,640 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in the US and about 16,410 individuals will die of the disease. It is the sixth most common cause of global cancer death. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer of the esophagus among African Americans, while Adenocarcinoma is more common in Caucasians. Squamous Cell Carcinoma accounts for approximately 85% of cases.

Majority of esophageal cancers are unresectable at diagnosis, and most patients treated with curative intent eventually will relapse and only about 20% of patients will survive at least 5 years following diagnosis. Patients with advanced esophageal cancer have a median survival of less than a year when treated with the standard Fluoropyrimidine plus Platinum based chemotherapy. For those patients progressing on first line chemotherapy, treatment options are limited, with a 5-year relative survival rate of 8% or less.

OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) 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, thereby undoing PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response and unleashing the T cells. It has been noted that approximately 50% of patients with advanced esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma express tumor-cell Programmed Death Ligand 1 (PD-L1) greater than 1%. In the ATTRACTION-3 multicentre, Phase III trial, treatment with OPDIVO® was associated with a significant improvement in Overall Survival, compared with chemotherapy, in previously treated patients with advanced Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma, regardless of PD-L1 expression. In the CheckMate 649 Phase III trial involving patients with gastric, gastroesophageal junction, or esophageal adenocarcinoma, first-line treatment with OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy resulted in a significant Overall Survival (OS) and Progression Free Survival (PFS) benefit, as compared with chemotherapy alone, as well as durable Objective Response Rate (ORR), with an acceptable safety profile.

CheckMate 648 is a global, open-label, Phase III trial in which the efficacy and safety of both an Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor in combination with chemotherapy and a dual Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor combination was evaluated in previously untreated patients with advanced esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma. The researchers herein reported the results for OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy and for OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® (Ipilimumab) as compared with chemotherapy alone.

In this study, 970 patients with previously untreated, unresectable, advanced, recurrent or metastatic esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma were randomly assigned 1:1:1 to receive OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy (N=321), OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® (N=325), or chemotherapy alone. Patients in the OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy group received OPDIVO® 240 mg IV every 2 weeks and chemotherapy consisted of Fluorouracil 800 mg/m2 IV Days 1-5 and Cisplatin 80 mg/m2 IV on Day 1, given every 4 weeks. The OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® group received OPDIVO® 3 mg/kg IV every 2 weeks plus YERVOY® 1 mg/kg IV every 6 weeks. Treatment was continued until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Patients could receive OPDIVO® or OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® for a maximum of 2 years. Demographic and baseline clinical characteristics were balanced across the treatment groups and in patients with tumor-cell PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater (49% of patients in each treatment group had tumor-cell PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater). The Primary end points were Overall Survival (OS) and Progression Free Survival (PFS), as determined by Blinded Independent Central Review (BICR), with hierarchical testing performed first in patients with tumor-cell PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater and then in the overall population. The Secondary end points included Objective Response Rate (ORR), which was also assessed by BICR.

After a minimum follow up period of 13 months, Overall Survival was significantly longer with OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy than with chemotherapy alone, both among patients with tumor-cell PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater (15.4 months versus 9.1 months; HR=0.54; P<0.001) and in the overall population (13.2 months versus 10.7 months; HR=0.74; P=0.002). These findings suggested a 46% and 26% lower risk of death respectively with OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy, than with chemotherapy alone. Overall Survival was also significantly longer with OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® than with chemotherapy among patients with tumor-cell PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater (13.7 months versus 9.1 months; HR=0.64; P=0.001) and in the overall population (12.7 months versus 10.7 months; HR=0.78; P=0.01).

There was a significant improvement in Progression Free Survival seen with OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy over chemotherapy alone among patients with tumor-cell PD-L1 expression of 1% or greater (HR=0.65; P=0.002). This PFS benefit was not seen with OPDIVO® plus YERVOY®, as compared with chemotherapy. The incidence of Grade 3 or 4 treatment-related Adverse Events was 47% with OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy, 32% with OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® and 36% with chemotherapy alone.

Treatment with either OPDIVO®-based regimens resulted in a higher Complete Response rate, as well as in more durable responses, than chemotherapy alone. Of the three treatment regimens, OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy led to the highest Objective Response Rate and OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® resulted in the longest median Duration of Response.

It was concluded that first-line treatment of advanced esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma with either OPDIVO® plus chemotherapy or OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® resulted in a significantly longer Overall Survival benefit and durable responses, than chemotherapy alone.

Nivolumab Combination Therapy in Advanced Esophageal Squamous-Cell Carcinoma. Doki Y, Ajani JA, Kato K, et al. N Engl J Med 2022;386:449-462

FDA Approves First Line KEYTRUDA® in Combination with Chemotherapy for Esophageal or Gastroesophageal Carcinoma

SUMMARY: The FDA on March 22, 2021, approved KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) in combination with Platinum and Fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy for patients with metastatic or locally advanced esophageal or GastroEsophageal Junction (tumors with epicenter 1 to 5 cm above the GastroEsophageal Junction) carcinoma, who are not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation. The American Cancer Society estimates that in the US about 19,260 new esophageal cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2021 and about 15,530 people will die of the disease. Esophageal cancer is more common among men than among women. Majority of the patients with Gastric and GastroEsophageal (GE) Adenocarcinoma have advanced disease at the time of initial presentation and have limited therapeutic options with little or no chance for cure. These patients frequently are treated with Platinum containing chemotherapy along with a Fluoropyrimidine. The prognosis for advanced esophageal cancer is poor, with median survival of less than 12 months.

KEYTRUDA® is a fully humanized, Immunoglobulin G4, anti-PD-1, monoclonal antibody, that binds to the PD-1 receptor and blocks its interaction with ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2. It thereby reverses the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response and unleashes the tumor-specific effector T cells.

KEYNOTE-590 is a global, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, Phase III trial, in which first line KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy was compared with placebo plus chemotherapy, in patients with locally advanced/unresectable or metastatic adenocarcinoma or esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (ESCC) or Siewert type 1 EsophagoGastric Junction adenocarcinoma (EGJ), who were not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation. In this study, 749 eligible patients, regardless of PD-L1 expression were randomized 1:1 to KEYTRUDA® 200 mg IV every 3 weeks for up to 35 cycles (2 years) along with chemotherapy consisting of Cisplatin 80mg/m2 IV given on day 1, plus 5FU 800 mg/m2 IV given on days 1-5, every 3 weeks for 6 cycles, or placebo plus chemotherapy. Treatment was continued until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity, and crossover was not permitted. Approximately 50% of all patients had tumors with a PD-L1 Combined Positive Score (CPS) 10 or more, and half the population was Asian. The dual Primary endpoints of the study were Overall Survival (OS) and Progression Free Survival (PFS). The researchers evaluated outcomes in the overall treatment population, in patients with a PD-L1 CPS 10 or more, and according to histology (Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma versus adenocarcinoma). The Secondary end point was Objective Response Rate (ORR) in all patients. The median follow up was 10.8 months.

There was a statistically significant improvement in OS and PFS for patients randomized to KEYTRUDA® with chemotherapy. The median OS among all patients was 12.4 versus 9.8 months (HR=0.73; P<0.0001) and the median PFS among all patients was 6.3 versus 5.8 months, respectively (HR=0.65; P<0.0001). The confirmed ORR in all patients was 45% versus 29.3% (P < 0.0001), with a median Duration of Response of 8.3 versus 6.0 months, respectively. In patients with a PD-L1 CPS 10 or higher, the median OS with the KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy was 13.5 months versus 9.4 months with chemotherapy alone (HR=0.62; P<0.0001) and the median PFS was 7.5 months versus 5.5 months, respectively (HR=0.51; P<0.0001). The most common adverse reactions reported in 20% or more of patients who received the KEYTRUDA® combination were nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea stomatitis, fatigue/asthenia, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

It was concluded that treatment with KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy combination resulted in superior Overall Survival, Progression Free Survival, and Objective Response Rate, with a manageable safety profile, when compared to chemotherapy alone, in patients with advanced untreated esophageal and EsophagoGastric Junction cancer. These data demonstrate that first line KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy is a new standard of care in this patient population.

Pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy as first-line therapy in patients with advanced esophageal cancer: the phase 3 KEYNOTE-590 study. Kato K, Sun J, Shah MA, et al. Annals of Oncology (2020) 31 (suppl_4): S1142-S1215. 10.1016/annonc/annonc325.

OPDIVO® (Nivolumab)

The FDA on June 10, 2020 approved OPDIVO® for patients with unresectable, advanced, recurrent or metastatic Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (ESCC), after prior Fluoropyrimidine- and Platinum-based chemotherapy. OPDIVO® is a product of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Late breaking Abstract – ESMO 2019 OPDIVO® Improves Overall Survival in Advanced Esophageal Cancer Regardless of PD-L1 Expression

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, about 17,650 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in the US and about 16,080 individuals will die of the disease. It is the sixth most common cause of global cancer death. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer of the esophagus among African Americans, while Adenocarcinoma is more common in caucasians. About 20% of patients survive at least 5 years following diagnosis. Patients with advanced esophageal cancer following progression on first line chemotherapy have limited treatment options and have a poor prognosis, with a 5-year relative survival rate of 8% or less.

The FDA in July 2019 approved KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) for patients with recurrent, locally advanced or metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Esophagus (ESCC), whose tumors express PD-L1 (Combined Positive Score-CPS of 10 or more). This approval was based on the Phase III KEYNOTE-181 global trial in which KEYTRUDA® significantly improved Overall Survival compared with chemotherapy, as second line therapy for patients with advanced esophageal cancer, with PD-L1 CPS of 10 or higher. The median Overall Survival in the Intent-To-Treat population was however was not statistically significant.

OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) 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, thereby undoing PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response and unleashing the T cells. OPDIVO® in a Phase II study showed promising antitumor activity and safety profile among patients with advanced refractory Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Esophagus (ESCC). ATTRACTION-3 is a multicentre, randomized, open-label, Phase III trial in which 419 patients with unresectable advanced or recurrent ESCC refractory or intolerant to one prior Fluoropyrimidine/Platinum-based chemotherapy, regardless of PD-L1 expression, were enrolled. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to either OPDIVO® 240 mg IV every 2 weeks (N=210) or investigator’s choice of Paclitaxel 100 mg/m2 IV once per week for 6 weeks then 1 week off or Docetaxel 75 mg/m2 IV every 3 weeks (N=209). Both treatment groups were well balanced and nearly 90% of the patients were male and 96% were Asian. Approximately 85% of patients were current or former smokers, about half of patients had prior surgery and about 70% had prior radiotherapy. Approximately 50% of patients had tumor PD-L1 expression of 1% or more. The Primary endpoint was Overall Survival (OS), in the intent-to-treat population that included all randomized patients.

At a minimum follow-up of 17.6 months, OPDIVO® showed a statistically significant improvement in OS, with a 23% reduction in the risk of death, compared to chemotherapy. The median Overall Survival was 10.9 months in the OPDIVO® group versus 8.4 months in the chemotherapy group (HR for death=0.77, P=0.019). The proportion of patients alive at 18 months was numerically larger with OPDIVO® versus chemotherapy (31% vs 21%). The OS benefit with OPDIVO® over chemotherapy was noted across tumor PD-L1 expression levels (PD-L1 1% or more, HR=0.69; PD-L1 less than 1%, HR=0.84). The Objective Response Rate was similar in both treatment groups (19% vs 22%). However the median duration of response with OPDIVO® was 6.9 months, versus 3.9 months with chemotherapy, suggesting that the responses were substantially more durable with OPDIVO® compared to chemotherapy. There was no significant difference in the Progression Free Survival between the treatment groups. Grade 3 or 4 adverse events occurred in 18% of the OPDIVO® group and 63% of the chemotherapy group.

It was concluded that OPDIVO® was associated with a significant improvement in Overall Survival with a favorable safety profile compared with chemotherapy, in previously treated patients with advanced Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma, regardless of PD-L1 expression, and represents a potential new standard second-line treatment option for this patient group. Nivolumab versus chemotherapy in advanced esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC): the phase 3 ATTRACTION-3 study. Cho BC, Kato K, Takahashi M, et al. Presented at ESMO 2019: September 27-October 1, 2019; Barcelona, Spain. Abstract LBA 11.

KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab)

The FDA on July 30, 2019 approved KEYTRUDA® for patients with recurrent, locally advanced or metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Esophagus (ESCC), whose tumors express PD-L1 (Combined Positive Score-CPS of 10 or more), as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression after one or more prior lines of systemic therapy. FDA also approved a new use for the PD-L1 IHC 22C3 pharmDx kit as a companion diagnostic device for selecting patients for the above indication. KEYTRUDA® is a product of Merck & Co., Inc.

KEYTRUDA® versus Chemotherapy as Second-Line Treatment for Advanced Esophageal Cancer

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, about 17,650 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in the US and about 16,080 individuals will die of the disease. It is the sixth most common cause of global cancer death. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer of the esophagus among African Americans, while Adenocarcinoma is more common in caucasians. About 20% of patients survive at least 5 years following diagnosis. Patients with advanced esophageal cancer following progression on first line chemotherapy have limited treatment options and have a poor prognosis.

KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) is a fully humanized, Immunoglobulin G4, anti-PD-1, monoclonal antibody, that binds to the PD-1 receptor and blocks its interaction with ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2. It thereby reverses the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response and unleashes the tumor-specific effector T cells. KEYTRUDA® in the Phase II KEYNOTE-180 study demonstrated durable responses among heavily pretreated patients with advanced metastatic Adenocarcinoma or Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Esophagus as well as tumors with PD-L1 Combined Positive Score (CPS) of 10 or higher.

KEYNOTE-181 is a global, open-label, Phase III study which included 628 patients with advanced or metastatic adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, or Siewert Type I adenocarcinoma of the esophagogastric junction that had progressed after first-line standard therapy. [Adenocarcinomas arising in the vicinity of the EsophagoGastric Junction are classified (Siewert classification) into adenocarcinoma of the distal esophagus (Type I), true carcinoma of the cardia (Type II) and subcardial carcinoma (Type III)].

Patients were randomized 1:1 to KEYTRUDA® 200 mg Q3W for up to 35 cycles (approximately2 years) or investigator’s choice chemotherapy with Docetaxel 75 mg/m2 IV on day 1 of each 21 day cycle, OR Paclitaxel 80-100 mg/m2 IV on days 1, 8 and 15 of each 28-day cycle, OR Irinotecan 80 mg/m2 IV on day 1 of each 14-day cycle. Randomization was stratified by histology and region (Asia vs rest of world). The majority of patients (N=401; 64%) had Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and 222 patients had PD-L1 Combined Positive Score (CPS) of 10 or higher. The three Primary end points were Overall Survival (OS) in patients with SCC, patients with PD-L1 CPS of 10 or higher and Intent-To- Treat populations. The median follow up was 7 months.

It was noted that among the patients with a PD-L1 CPS of 10 or higher (35% of the study population), the median Overall Survival was 9.3 months with KEYTRUDA® versus 6.7 months with chemotherapy (HR=0.69; P=0.0074). The 12-month survival rate in this group was 43% versus 20% respectively. In the Squamous Cell Carcinoma subgroup (N=401), the median Overall Survival was 8.2 months with KEYTRUDA® versus 7.1 months with chemotherapy (HR=0.78; P=0.0095). These differences favoring KEYTRUDA® however, did not meet the study’s prespecified statistical boundary. In the Intent-To- Treat population, the median Overall Survival was 7.1 months in each treatment group (HR=0.89; P=0.0560), and was not statistically significant. The Progression Free Survival at 12 months among patients with a PD-L1 CPS of 10 or higher was 21% versus 7% for KEYTRUDA® and chemotherapy, respectively. Further, in this patient group, KEYTRUDA® more than doubled the Response Rates than those achieved with chemotherapy, with a longer median duration of response (9.3 versus 7.7 months respectively). Fewer patients had any grade drug-related adverse events with KEYTRUDA®, compared with chemotherapy.

The authors concluded that KEYTRUDA® significantly improved Overall Survival compared with chemotherapy, as second line therapy for patients with advanced esophageal cancer, with PD-L1 CPS of 10 or higher and also had a more favorable safety profile. They added that these data support KEYTRUDA® as a new second line standard of care for esophageal cancer with PD-L1 CPS of 10 or higher. A Phase III study of KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy as first line therapy for advanced esophageal cancer is underway. Pembrolizumab versus chemotherapy as second-line therapy for advanced esophageal cancer: Phase III KEYNOTE-181 study. Kojima T, Muro K, Francois E, et al. J Clin Oncol 37, 2019 (suppl 4; abstr 2)