Results from the phase III CheckMate-025 study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago last week, showed the immunotherapy drug nivolumab, a checkpoint inhibitor, to be a safe and effective therapy for kidney cancer, even in patients who continued treatment after their disease progressed.
Traditionally, kidney cancer drugs are stopped at the first evidence of the cancer progressing; however, immunotherapy response patterns differ from responses to other treatments. In CheckMate-025, 406 patients received nivolumab (Opdivo) as a second or third line treatment. Of the patients who progressed on nivolumab, 153 continued treatment beyond progression and 145 were not treated beyond progression. Patients without progressive disease were excluded from analysis. Fourteen percent (14%) of those who continued treatment experienced a 30% or greater reduction in their tumours. Additionally, patients who continued treatment survived 28.1 months, compared with 15 months for those who did not continue therapy.
The researchers suggest that patients who continued treatment with nivolumab after their disease progressed may have had a delayed immune response that ultimately prolonged survival. Further investigation is needed to optimise patient benefit from checkpoint inhibitors and improve patient outcomes.