FDA Approves LENVIMA® Plus KEYTRUDA® for Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma

SUMMARY: The FDA on August 10, 2021, approved the combination of LENVIMA® (Lenvatinib) plus KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) for first line treatment of adult patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC). The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,080 new cases of kidney cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in 2021 and about 13,780 people will die from the disease. Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is by far the most common type of kidney cancer and is about twice as common in men as in women. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances and high blood pressure. The five year survival of patients with advanced RCC is less than 10% and there is a significant unmet need for improved therapies for this disease.

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® has been the standard first line intervention for treatment naïve patients with advanced RCC. 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 (OS) 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.

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.

LENVIMA® (Lenvatinib) is an oral multitargeted TKI which targets Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor (VEGFR) 1-3, Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) 1-4, Rearranged during Transfection tyrosine kinase receptor (RET), c-KIT, and Platelet Derived Growth Factor Receptor (PDGFR). LENVIMA® differs from other TKIs with antiangiogenesis properties by its ability to inhibit FGFR-1, thereby blocking the mechanisms of resistance to VEGF/VEGFR inhibitors. In addition, it controls tumor cell growth by inhibiting RET, c-KIT, and PDGFR beta and influences tumor microenvironment by inhibiting FGFR and PDGFR beta.

AFINITOR® (Everolimus) does not inhibit tyrosine kinases, but is a specific inhibitor of mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin), which is a serine/threonine kinase, normally activated further downstream in the signaling cascade. With the inhibition of mTOR, protein synthesis is inhibited resulting in decreased angiogenesis, cell proliferation and survival as well as decreased levels of HIF-1 alpha.

A combination of LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® was shown to be associated with longer Progression Free Survival than AFINITOR® alone as second line treatment in advanced RCC (Lancet Oncol 2015;16:1473-1482). LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® was shown to have promising antitumor activity in previously treated patients with RCC in a Phase IB-II trial (J Clin Oncol 2020;38:1154-1163). Based on this data, the authors conducted a multicenter, randomized, open-label, Phase III trial to compare the efficacy and safety of LENVIMA® in combination with KEYTRUDA® or AFINITOR® versus SUTENT® alone, in first line treatment of patients with advanced RCC.

The researchers randomly assigned 1069 patients with advanced RCC and no previous systemic therapy in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive LENVIMA® 20 mg orally once daily plus KEYTRUDA® 200 mg IV once every 3 weeks (N=355), LENVIMA® 18 mg orally once daily plus AFINITOR® 5 mg orally once daily (N=357) or SUTENT® 50 mg orally once daily, alternating 4 weeks on and 2 weeks off (N=357). The Primary end point was Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Secondary endpoints included Overall Survival (OS), Objective Response Rate (ORR) and Safety. The median follow up for OS was 26.6 months.

The median PFS was significantly longer with LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® combination, compared to single agent SUTENT® (23.9 months versus 9.2 months, HR=0.39; P<0.001). The median PFS with the LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® combination was also significantly longer, compared to single agent SUTENT® (14.7 months versus 9.2 months, HR=0.65; P<0.001). The PFS benefit favored the two LENVIMA® combination regimens over single agent SUTENT® across all evaluated subgroups, including those based on MSKCC prognostic risk group and International Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma Database Consortium (IMDC) risk group. At interim analysis, the OS was significantly longer with LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® than with SUTENT® (HR for death=0.66; P=0.005). This benefit was noted in most subgroups, including patients with PD-L1 positive or negative tumors, with an exception of patients with favorable risk disease as defined by IMDC criteria. Overall Survival with LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® was however not significantly longer compared with SUTENT® (HR=1.15; P=0.30).

The confirmed ORR was 71% with LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA®, 53.5% with LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR®, and 36.1% with single agent SUTENT®. The Complete Response rate was 16.1% in the LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® group, 9.8% in the LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® group, and 4.2% in the SUTENT® group. The median Duration of Response in patients who had a confirmed response was 25.8 months in the LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® group, 16.6 months in the LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® group, and 14.6 months in the SUTENT® group. Grade 3 or higher Adverse Events occurred in 82.4% of the patients who received LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® group, in 83.1% of the patients who received LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR®, and in 71.8% of the patients who received SUTENT®.

It was concluded that a combination of LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® provided superior Progression Free Survival and Overall Survival compared to SUTENT®, in the first line treatment of patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Lenvatinib plus Pembrolizumab or Everolimus for Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma. Motzer R, Alekseev B, Rha S-Y, et al. for the CLEAR Trial Investigators. N Engl J Med 2021; 384:1289-1300

Late Breaking Abstract – ASCO 2021: Adjuvant KEYTRUDA® Improves Disease Free Survival in Renal Cell Carcinoma

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,080 new cases of kidney cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in 2021 and about 13,780 people will die from the disease. Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is by far the most common type of kidney cancer and is about twice as common in men as in women. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances and high blood pressure. The five year survival of patients with advanced RCC is less than 10% and there is a significant unmet need for improved therapies for this disease.

The prognosis for patients with Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is dependent on the stage of disease and risk factors. Two validated models, the University of California Los Angeles Integrated Staging System (UISS) and the Stage, Size, Grade, and Necrosis (SSIGN) score were developed, to assess the risk for relapse. UISS is based on ECOG Performance Status, Fuhrman nuclear grading and TNM pathological stage, whereas the SSIGN score takes Stage, Size, Grade and Necrosis into consideration. Approximately 16% of patients with RCC present with Locoregional disease, and up to 40% of these patients relapse with metastatic disease, following nephrectomy. The 5-year survival for locoregional (stage III) disease is 53%, and 8% for metastatic disease. The standard management of high risk patients following nephrectomy has been surveillance, as there has been limited data demonstrating the benefit of adjuvant therapy in reducing the risk of relapse. Adjuvant therapy with immune check point inhibitors therapy is a potentially attractive treatment strategy for this patient group.

KEYNOTE-564 is a multicenter, double-blind, Phase III trial in which the benefit of adjuvant therapy with KEYTRUDA® was compared with placebo, following nephrectomy, in patients with clear cell RCC. In this study, 994 patients were randomized 1:1 to receive either KEYTRUDA® or placebo at least 12 weeks after surgery. Enrolled patients had histologically confirmed clear cell RCC, with Intermediate-High risk (pT2, Grade 4 or Sarcomatoid, N0 M0; or pT3, any Grade, N0 M0), High risk (pT4, any Grade, N0 M0; or pT any Stage, any Grade, N+ M0), or M1 with No Evidence of Disease after primary tumor and soft tissue metastases were completely resected, 1 year or less from nephrectomy. Treatment consisted of KEYTRUDA® 200 mg IV every 3 weeks (N=496) or placebo (N=498), every 3 weeks, for approximately 1 year. Both treatment groups were well balanced. The Primary end point of the trial was Disease Free Survival (DFS) assessment in all randomized patients and Secondary end points included Overall Survival (OS) and Safety. The median follow up at the time of data cut-off was 24.1 months.

At first prespecified interim analysis, the Primary endpoint of DFS was met. The median DFS was not reached for both treatment groups. KEYTRUDA® reduced the risk of recurrence or death by 32% compared with placebo, and this difference was statistically significant (HR=0.68; P=0.0010). The estimated DFS rate at 24 months was 77.3% with KEYTRUDA® versus 68.1% with placebo and this DFS benefit was consistent across subgroups. The estimated OS rate at 24 months was 96.6% with KEYTRUDA® versus 93.5% with placebo. Survival data are premature and additional follow up is planned for OS.

It was concluded that KEYTRUDA® demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in Disease Free Survival compared to placebo, in patients with Renal Cell Carcinoma, with a high risk of recurrence. The authors added that this is the first positive Phase III study with a checkpoint inhibitor, in adjuvant Renal Cell Carcinoma, and these practice changing results support KEYTRUDA® as a potential new standard of care for this patient group.

Pembrolizumab versus placebo as post-nephrectomy adjuvant therapy for patients with renal cell carcinoma: Randomized, double-blind, phase III KEYNOTE-564 study. Choueiri TK, Tomczak P, Park SH, et al. J Clin Oncol 2021; 39: (suppl 15; abstr LBA5) DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2021.39.15_suppl.LBA5

LENVIMA® Plus KEYTRUDA® for Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,080 new cases of kidney cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in 2021 and about 13,780 people will die from the disease. Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is by far the most common type of kidney cancer and is about twice as common in men as in women. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances and high blood pressure. The five year survival of patients with advanced RCC is less than 10% and there is a significant unmet need for improved therapies for this disease.

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® has been the standard first line intervention for treatment naïve patients with advanced RCC. 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 (OS) 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.

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.

LENVIMA® (Lenvatinib) is an oral multitargeted TKI which targets Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor (VEGFR) 1-3, Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) 1-4, Rearranged during Transfection tyrosine kinase receptor (RET), c-KIT, and Platelet Derived Growth Factor Receptor (PDGFR). LENVIMA® differs from other TKIs with antiangiogenesis properties by its ability to inhibit FGFR-1, thereby blocking the mechanisms of resistance to VEGF/VEGFR inhibitors. In addition, it controls tumor cell growth by inhibiting RET, c-KIT, and PDGFR beta and influences tumor microenvironment by inhibiting FGFR and PDGFR beta.

AFINITOR® (Everolimus) does not inhibit tyrosine kinases, but is a specific inhibitor of mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin), which is a serine/threonine kinase, normally activated further downstream in the signaling cascade. With the inhibition of mTOR, protein synthesis is inhibited resulting in decreased angiogenesis, cell proliferation and survival as well as decreased levels of HIF-1 alpha.
A combination of LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® was shown to be associated with longer Progression Free Survival than AFINITOR® alone as second-line treatment in advanced RCC (Lancet Oncol 2015;16:1473-1482). LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® was shown to have promising antitumor activity in previously treated patients with RCC in a Phase IB-II trial (J Clin Oncol 2020;38:1154-1163). Based on this data, the authors conducted a multicenter, randomized, open-label, Phase III trial to compare the efficacy and safety of LENVIMA® in combination with KEYTRUDA® or AFINITOR® versus SUTENT® alone, in first line treatment of patients with advanced RCC.

The researchers randomly assigned 1069 patients with advanced RCC and no previous systemic therapy in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive LENVIMA® 20 mg orally once daily plus KEYTRUDA® 200 mg IV once every 3 weeks (N=355), LENVIMA® 18 mg orally once daily plus AFINITOR® 5 mg orally once daily (N=357) or SUTENT® 50 mg orally once daily, alternating 4 weeks on and 2 weeks off (N=357). The Primary end point was Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Secondary endpoints included Overall Survival (OS), Objective Response Rate (ORR) and Safety. The median follow up for OS was 26.6 months.

The median PFS was significantly longer with LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® combination, compared to single agent SUTENT® (23.9 months versus 9.2 months, HR=0.39; P<0.001). The median PFS with the LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® combination was also significantly longer, compared to single agent SUTENT® (14.7 months versus 9.2 months, HR=0.65; P<0.001). The PFS benefit favored the two LENVIMA® combination regimens over single agent SUTENT® across all evaluated subgroups, including those based on MSKCC prognostic risk group and International Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma Database Consortium (IMDC) risk group. At interim analysis, the OS was significantly longer with LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® than with SUTENT® (HR for death=0.66; P=0.005). This benefit was noted in most subgroups, including patients with PD-L1 positive or negative tumors, with an exception of patients with favorable risk disease as defined by IMDC criteria. Overall Survival with LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® was however not significantly longer compared with SUTENT® (HR=1.15; P=0.30).

The confirmed ORR was 71% with LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA®, 53.5% with LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR®, and 36.1% with single agent SUTENT®. The Complete Response rate was 16.1% in the LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® group, 9.8% in the LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® group, and 4.2% in the SUTENT® group. The median Duration of Response in patients who had a confirmed response was 25.8 months in the LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® group, 16.6 months in the LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR® group, and 14.6 months in the SUTENT® group. Grade 3 or higher Adverse Events occurred in 82.4% of the patients who received LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® group, in 83.1% of the patients who received LENVIMA® plus AFINITOR®, and in 71.8% of the patients who received SUTENT®.

It was concluded that a combination of LENVIMA® plus KEYTRUDA® provided superior Progression Free Survival and Overall Survival compared to SUTENT®, in the first line treatment of patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Lenvatinib plus Pembrolizumab or Everolimus for Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma. Motzer R, Alekseev B, Rha S-Y, et al. for the CLEAR Trial Investigators. N Engl J Med 2021; 384:1289-1300

FDA Approves OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® in Newly Diagnosed Advanced Kidney Cancer

SUMMARY: The FDA on January 22,2021, approved the combination of OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) and CABOMETYX® (Cabozantinib) as first line treatment for patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC). The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,080 new cases of kidney cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in 2021 and about 13,780 people will die from the disease. Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is by far the most common type of kidney cancer and is about twice as common in men as in women. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances and high blood pressure. The five year survival of patients with advanced RCC is less than 10% and there is significant unmet need for improved therapies for this disease. 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® has been the standard first line intervention for treatment naïve patients with advanced RCC. 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 (OS) 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.

The FDA in 2018, approved combination immunotherapy, OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) plus YERVOY® (Ipilimumab), for the treatment of intermediate or poor-risk, previously untreated advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), based on significantly higher Overall Survival (OS) and Objective Response Rates (ORR), compared with SUTENT® (CheckMate 214). Subsequently, two studies, a combination of BAVENCIO® (Avelumab) and INLYTA® (Axitinib) – JAVELIN Renal 101, and KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) and INLYTA® (KEYNOTE-426), demonstrated superior OS, compared to SUTENT®, and for the first time set the stage for the use of a combination of checkpoint inhibitor and targeted therapy in this patient population.MOA-of-CABOZANTINIB

OPDIVO®, an anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor and CABOMETYX® (Cabozantinib), a small-molecule Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor, are both approved as single agents, for the second-line treatment of Renal Cell Carcinoma. The rationale for combining these two agents is that OPDIVO® unleashes the immune system and restores antitumor immune response, whereas CABOMETYX® has both antiangiogenic and immunomodulatory properties and may counteract tumor-induced immunosuppression.

CheckMate 9ER study is a multinational, randomized, Phase III trial, in which a combination of OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® was compared with single agent SUTENT®, in treatment naïve patients with advanced clear cell Renal Cell Carcinoma. This study included 651 treatment naïve patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma with a clear cell component, who were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive OPDIVO® 240 mg IV every 2 weeks along with CABOMETYX® 40 mg orally daily (N=323) or SUTENT® 50 mg orally daily in 4-week-on, 2-week-off cycles (N=328). Treatment was continued until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Patients with any IMDC (International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium) risk score were included. Patients with sarcomatoid tumor features were allowed. Patients were stratified by IMDC risk score and tumor PD-L1 expression. The median patient age was 62 years, 58% of patients were in the IMDC intermediate risk category and 75% of patients had tumor PD-L1 expression of less than 1%. The Primary endpoint was Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Secondary endpoints included Overall Survival (OS), Objective Response Rate (ORR) and safety.

At a median follow up of 18.1 months, the median PFS was 16.6 months with OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination versus 8.3 months with single agent SUTENT® (HR=0.51; P<0.0001), suggesting a doubling of PFS, with a 49% reduction in the risk of disease progression or death. The median Overall Survival, a secondary endpoint, was not reached in either treatment group, but at this first analysis, patients randomized to the OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination had significantly longer OS, than those receiving SUTENT® (median Not Reached; HR=0.60; P=0.001), suggesting a 40% reduction in the risk of death. These benefits were seen consistently across pre-specified subgroups defined according to IMDC risk categories and PD-L1 expression. The Objective Response Rate (ORR) was also significantly higher and doubled among patients receiving the OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination, compared to those receiving SUTENT® (55.7% versus 27.1%, P<0.0001). Complete response rates were also higher among those receiving the OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination (8.0% versus 4.6%), with a shorter median time to response, and longer duration of response. Grade 3 or more Adverse Events were higher among those receiving OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination, compared to those receiving SUTENT® (60.6% versus 50.9%).

It was concluded that a combination of OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® demonstrated superior Progression Free Survival, Overall Survival and Overall Response Rate, compared to SUTENT®, in treatment naïve patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma, and provides a new treatment option for this patient group.

Nivolumab + cabozantinib vs sunitinib in first-line treatment for advanced renal cell carcinoma: first results from the randomized phase 3 CheckMate 9ER trial. Choueiri TK, Powles T, Burotto M, et al. Ann Oncol. 2020;31(4). Abstract 6960.

The Evolution of Therapeutics for Patients with aRCC

Written by Dr. Thomas Hutson, Texas Oncology

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers with an incidence of around 400,000 cases worldwide.1 In the United States alone, RCC accounted for 73,820 new cases and 14,770 deaths in 2019.2 In patients with RCC, about 30% present with metastatic disease at the time of initial diagnosis typically requiring systemic therapy, and of those treated for localized RCC, almost 30% develop recurrent disease during the follow-up.3 To address this patient population, multiple targeted therapies focused predominantly on two major molecular pathways, namely angiogenesis and intracellular signal transduction pathways, have gained increasing attention in recent years as prospective therapies for advanced RCC (aRCC).4

The Advent of New Therapeutics for RCC

After the approval of high-dose IL2, there was remarkable progress in the treatment of RCC with approval of VEGF inhibitors, as well as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway inhibitors. These agents have gained regulatory approval and have drastically improved the outcome of patients with advanced RCC.5 More recently, key insights obtained in regard to the Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) pathway provided the basis for the development of the VHL-hypoxia pathway-based therapeutic landscape in renal cancers.6 For instance, the newer generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) block not only vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) but also fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR), and hepatocyte growth factor receptor (C-Met) and Axl, respectively.6 These additional targets have been implicated to help escape angiogenesis blockade which may explain their incremental improvement in efficacy demonstrated in pivotal clinical trials.6 While significant progress has occurred, there is still room for improvement for targeted therapies as current drug interventions for metastatic RCC (mRCC) have yet to demonstrate the ability to circumvent recurrence and several therapies are accompanied by severe adverse events.5

Given that RCC is considered immune-responsive in nature with high numbers of immune cells present in the tumor microenvironment (TME), targeted immunotherapy (IO) was more recently approved as another potential therapy in RCC.7 One strategy involves the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI). In particular, the use of sophisticated ICIs – anti-programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1), anti-programmed death receptor ligand-1 (PD-L1), and anti-cytotoxic T lymphocytes antigen-4 (CTLA-4) – have been studied in large international phase 3 trials demonstrating significant and clinically relevant improvements in efficacy.4,8 As such, these new therapies have quickly been integrated into the RCC landscape with PD-1 and PD-L1 antibody-based novel ICIs now approved by the FDA as the standard second-line treatment for mRCC as well as in the first-line for moderate to high risk mRCC.9,10

Recently reported and FDA-approved combinations of ICI or ICI with TKI therapy have been rapidly integrated into the first-line treatment setting based upon recent international phase 3 trials.4 It has been proposed that anti-VEGF therapies used in combination with targeted immunotherapies may overcome resistance by modulating the TME. Moreover, inhibition of the VEGF pathway was shown to facilitate access of T-cell population into the TME and decrease the activity of T-regulatory cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells, thereby enhancing responsiveness to immunotherapy.9,11,12

Strategizing Therapeutic Approach

When patients with mRCC progress through first-line therapies (TKI-ICI, TKI, ICI-ICI), there are many second-line choices to choose from, including ICI, mTOR pathway inhibitors and TKI-mTOR inhibitor combinations.

Before starting therapy, it is necessary to educate the patient about the possibility of adverse reactions that may ensue in the weeks and months after therapy begins. Setting expectations of therapy will serve to maximize patient compliance through early intervention as adverse reactions emerge. This will require close communication between the clinical treatment team, the patient, and their caregivers. Withholding therapy and dose adjustments may be required in some cases to enable patients to remain on therapy.13,14

References
1. Bray F, Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, et al. Global Cancer Statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2018;68:394-424
2. Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2019. CA Cancer J Clin. 2019;69(1):7-34.
3. Abara E, Chivulescu I, Clerk N, et al. Recurrent renal cell cancer: 10 years or more after nephrectomy. Canadian Urological Association. 2010;4(2):E45-E49.
4. Wang J, Li X, Wu X, et al. Role of immune checkpoint inhibitor-based therapies for metastatic renal cell carcinoma in the first-line setting: A Bayesian network analysis. EBioMedicine. 2019;47:78-88.
5. Barata P, Ornstein M, Garcia J. The Evolving Treatment Landscape of Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma in Patinents Progressing after VEGF Inhibition. J Kidney Cancer VHL 2017;4(2):10-18.
6. Jonasch E. Implications of VHL-HIF pathway dysregulation in renal cell carcinoma: current therapeutic strategies and challenges. Kidney Cancer Journal. 2020;18(1):6-10.
7. Leite KR, Reis ST, Junior JP, et al. PD-L1 expression in renal cell carcinoma clear cell type is related to unfavorable prognosis. Diagn Pathol. 2015;10:189.
8. Motzer RJ, Escudier B, McDermott DF, et al. Nivolumab versus Everolimus in Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma. N Engl J Med. 2015;373(19):1803-1813.
9. Motzer RJ, Penkov K, Haanen J, et al. Avelumab plus Axitinib versus Sunitinib for Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma. N Engl J Med. 2019;380(12):1103-1115.
10. Motzer RJ, Tannir NM, McDermott DF, et al. Nivolumab plus Ipilimumab versus Sunitinib in Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma. N Engl J Med. 2018;378(14):1277-1290.
11. Rini B.I, Plimack E.R, Stus V, et al. Pembrolizumab plus Axitinib versus
Sunitinib for Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma. N Engl J Med. 2019;380:1116-27
12. Suk Lee W, et al. Combination of anti-angiogenic therapy and immune checkpoint blockade normalizes vascular-immune crosstalk to potentiate cancer immunity. Experimental and Molecular Medicine. 2020; 52:1475-1485
13. Philip L. Management of Targeted Therapy Adverse Effects. Pharmacytimes. 2020. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/Directions-in-Pharmacy/2019/December2019/featured-article-management-of-targeted-therapy-adverse-effects. Accessed 10/27/2020.
14. Barber FD. Adverse Events of Oncologic Immunotherapy and Their Management. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs. 2019;6:212-26

This article is sponsored by Eisai Inc.

LENV-US4722

Salvage YERVOY® and OPDIVO® Combination after Prior Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy in Advanced RCC

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that 73,750 new cases of kidney and renal pelvis cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in 2020 and about 14,830 people will die from the disease. Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is by far the most common type of kidney cancer and is about twice as common in men as in women. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances and high blood pressure. The five year survival of patients with advanced RCC is less than 10% and there is significant unmet need for improved therapies for this disease.

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.Unleashing-T-Cell-Function-with-Combination-Immunotherapy

The FDA in 2018, approved combination immunotherapy, OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) plus YERVOY® (Ipilimumab), for the treatment of intermediate or poor-risk, previously untreated advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), based on significantly higher Overall Survival (OS) and Objective Response Rates (ORR), compared with Sunitinib, a multikinase inhibitor (CheckMate 214). Subsequently, two studies, a combination of BAVENCIO® (Avelumab), a PD-L1 targeted monoclonal antibody and INLYTA® (Axitinib), a Receptor Tyrosine Kinase inhibitor (JAVELIN Renal-101), and KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab), a PD-1 targeted monoclonal antibody and INLYTA® (KEYNOTE-426), demonstrated superior OS, compared to Sunitinib, and for the first time set the stage for the use of a combination of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor (ICI) and targeted therapy as first line treatment in this patient population.

The safety and activity of the combination of YERVOY® and OPDIVO® in patients with prior exposure to anti-PD-1 pathway targeted therapy, but no prior exposure to anti-CTLA-4 pathway targeted therapy, remains unknown. The rationale behind combining YERVOY® and OPDIVO® is that these two agents act in different phases of the immune response. Blocking the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway does not induce antitumor immunity if antigen-specific CD8-positive T cells are not present in cancer tissues. However, blocking the CTLA-4 pathway leads to increased activation of CD8-positive cells in the lymph nodes as well as increased infiltration of activated CD8-positive T cells into the tumor. This mechanistic difference between an anti-PD-1 antibody and an anti-CTLA-4 targeted therapy may allow activity of anti-CTLA-4 antibody in combination with anti-PD-1 antibody, upon treatment failure on prior anti-PD-1 targeted therapy.

The authors in this publication evaluated YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination in patients with metastatic RCC, after prior treatment with anti-PD-1 pathway targeted therapy. This study included 45 patients with metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma from 5 medical centers in the US and all patients had received prior therapy with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (ICIs) targeting the PD-1 pathway. The Primary objective of this study was to estimate the Objective Response Rate (ORR) to salvage YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination, in patients with metastatic RCC, who received ICI as prior treatment.

The median number of prior lines of therapy was 3 and all patients had received at least one prior therapy targeting the PD-1 pathway. About 76% of patients received an anti-PD-1 antibody, and 24% received an anti-PDL-1 antibody before receiving YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination. Of the 45 patients included in this study, 60% received monotherapy with prior anti-PD-1 or anti-PDL-1 antibody, 18% received PD-1 pathway targeted Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor (ICI) in combination with a VEGF receptor inhibitor (Axitinib,Sunitinib, or Cabozantinib), 9% received an ICI in combination with Bevacizumab, and 13% received an ICI in combination with another agent . Approximately 71% of the study patients received one line of prior ICI therapy and 29% of the study patients had received more than one prior ICI regimen. The best Objective Response Rate to prior ICI therapy was a Partial Response Rate of 53%, Stable disease in 27%, and Progressive disease in 20%. The median time on prior ICIs was 13 months. The median age at the time of initiation of YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination was 62 years and all patients had more than one metastatic site, and 38% had brain metastasis. Twenty percent of the patients were favorable risk on the basis of IMDC criteria, 64% were intermediate risk, 7% were poor risk, and 9% were unknown risk.

At a median follow up of 12 months, the Objective Response Rate with the YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination was 20% and the median Duration of Response was 7 months. An additional 16% of patients had stable disease. The median Progression Free Survival while on YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination was 4 months. Immune-related Adverse Events of any grade with YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination were noted in 64% of patients, and Grade 3 Immune-related Adverse Events were noted in 13% of the study patients.

It was concluded from this study that YERVOY® and OPDIVO® combination demonstrated antitumor activity with acceptable toxicity in patients with metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma, who had prior treatment with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors, suggesting that responses are possible in a subset of patients with metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma who are naïve to therapy with anti-CTLA-4 antibody, and had prior exposure to therapy targeting the PD-1 pathway. Salvage YERVOY® and OPDIVO® therapy after single-agent OPDIVO® is currently being evaluated in multiple clinical trials.

Salvage Ipilimumab and Nivolumab in Patients With Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma After Prior Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors. Gul A, Stewart TF, Mantia CM, et al. J Clin Oncol 2020;38:3088-3094

OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® Combination Doubles Progression Free Survival in Newly Diagnosed Advanced Kidney Cancer

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that 73,750 new cases of kidney and renal pelvis cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in 2020 and about 14,830 people will die from the disease. Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is by far the most common type of kidney cancer and is about twice as common in men as in women. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances and high blood pressure. The five year survival of patients with advanced RCC is less than 10% and there is significant unmet need for improved therapies for this disease. 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 RCC. 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.MOA-of-CABOZANTINIB

The FDA in 2018, approved combination immunotherapy, OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) plus YERVOY® (Ipilimumab), for the treatment of intermediate or poor-risk, previously untreated advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), based on significantly higher Overall Survival (OS) and Objective Response Rates (ORR), compared with SUTENT® (CheckMate 214). Subsequently, two studies, a combination of BAVENCIO® (Avelumab) and INLYTA® (Axitinib) – JAVELIN Renal 101, and KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) and INLYTA® (KEYNOTE-426), demonstrated superior OS, compared to SUTENT®, and for the first time set the stage for the use of a combination of checkpoint inhibitor and targeted therapy in this patient population.

OPDIVO®, an anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor and CABOMETYX® (Cabozantinib), a small-molecule Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor, are both approved as single agents, for the second-line treatment of Renal Cell Carcinoma. The rationale for combining these two agents is that OPDIVO® unleashes the immune system and restores antitumor immune response, whereas CABOMETYX® has both antiangiogenic and immunomodulatory properties and may counteract tumor-induced immunosuppression.

CheckMate 9ER study is a multinational, randomized, Phase III trial, in which a combination of OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® was compared with single agent SUTENT®, in treatment naïve patients with advanced clear cell Renal Cell Carcinoma. This study included 651 treatment naïve patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma with a clear cell component, who were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive OPDIVO® 240 mg IV every 2 weeks along with CABOMETYX® 40 mg orally daily (N=323) or SUTENT® 50 mg orally daily in 4-week-on, 2-week-off cycles (N=328). Treatment was continued until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Patients with any IMDC (International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium) risk score were included. Patients with sarcomatoid tumor features were allowed. Patients were stratified by IMDC risk score and tumor PD-L1 expression. The median patient age was 62 years, 58% of patients were in the IMDC intermediate risk category and 75% of patients had tumor PD-L1 expression of less than 1%. The Primary endpoint was Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Secondary endpoints included Overall Survival (OS), Objective Response Rate (ORR) and safety.

At a median follow up of 18.1 months, the median PFS was 16.6 months with OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination versus 8.3 months with single agent SUTENT® (HR=0.51; P<0.0001), suggesting a doubling of PFS, with a 49% reduction in the risk of disease progression or death. The median Overall Survival, a secondary endpoint, was not reached in either treatment group, but at this first analysis, patients randomized to the OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination had significantly longer OS, than those receiving SUTENT® (median Not Reached; HR=0.60; P=0.001), suggesting a 40% reduction in the risk of death. These benefits were seen consistently across pre-specified subgroups defined according to IMDC risk categories and PD-L1 expression. The Objective Response Rate (ORR) was also significantly higher and doubled among patients receiving the OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination, compared to those receiving SUTENT® (55.7% versus 27.1%, P<0.0001). Complete response rates were also higher among those receiving the OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination (8.0% versus 4.6%), with a shorter median time to response, and longer duration of response. Grade 3 or more Adverse Events were higher among those receiving OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® combination, compared to those receiving SUTENT® (60.6% versus 50.9%).

It was concluded that a combination of OPDIVO® plus CABOMETYX® demonstrated superior Progression Free Survival, Overall Survival and Overall Response Rate, compared to SUTENT®, in treatment naïve patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma, and provides a new treatment option for this patient group.

Nivolumab + cabozantinib vs sunitinib in first-line treatment for advanced renal cell carcinoma: first results from the randomized phase 3 CheckMate 9ER trial. Choueiri TK, Powles T, Burotto M, et al. Ann Oncol. 2020;31(4). Abstract 696O.