Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Melanoma: Long Overall Survival in Patients Receiving Nivolumab

From presentation and interview given by Sznol at ASCO:
Published:  Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Melanoma: Long Overall Survival in Patients Receiving Nivolumab

Favorable One- and Two-Year Survival Rates

A total of 107 patients with metastatic melanoma enrolled in the trial, which was led by

Mario Sznol, MD, Professor of Medical Oncology at Yale Cancer Center. To be eligible, patients had to have had at least one prior therapy but no more than four for advanced disease and no prior treatment with ipilimumab. Patients received intravenous nivolumab every two weeks at a dose of 0.1 to 10 mg/kg.

The patients had a median age of 61.... the group was heavily pretreated, with 66 percent of patients having had at least two prior therapies and 25 percent,  three or more. Additionally, 78 percent of patients had visceral metastases and 36 percent had elevated lactate dehydrogenase, which is associated with a poorer outcome.

The investigators saw no dose limiting toxicities. (With all the usual side effects I've already mentioned.)

"There was no additional safety signal seen with the additional year of follow-up," Sznol said. The overall response rate was 31 percent across all doses, with no apparent dose response. The median duration of response was two years and 45 percent of the responders showed a response at the first tumor assessment at eight weeks, indicating that the responses can be both rapid and durable.

Moreover, 12 of 17 patients who went off drug for reasons other than disease progression continued to respond for at least 16 weeks, and eight of those were continuing response at the time of the data analysis (range of 16 to 56 weeks). "You don't need continued treatment in a subset of patients in order to maintain response," Sznol said.

Pointing to the Kaplan-Meier curve for progression-free survival, he noted that the curve dropped rapidly at first but then flattened out. "Although the median progression-free survival of 3.7 months is not overly impressive, the one- and two-year progression-free survival rates of 36 and 27 percent are," Sznol said.

The median overall survival for the study group is 16.8 months. The one-year estimated overall survival rate is 62 percent and the two-year rate is 43 percent. With a median follow-up of 22 months (range 14 to 51 months), 47 patients remain alive.

[When] asked about the optimal duration of treatment with nivolumab. Sznol said the optimal duration remains unclear, but that his group at Yale have discontinued therapy on two patients with near complete responses, one after three cycles and the other after five cycles. Neither patient has relapsed.

"So at least at complete responders, you probably don't need to continue the drug," he said. "The question is, what do you do in patients with stable disease or partial response. Do you continue to give them drug every two weeks or do you decrease the interval of dosing? I don't think we have an answer to that question."

[When] asked if it was possible to biopsy lesions in responders to see if the lesions really contain residual disease. "I think the rate of complete response here is a little bit underestimated," Sznol responded. "Of the five patients we treated at Yale who are responders, four are complete responders or near-complete responders and the fifth patient, who has a liver nodule, is PET negative.

“So there wasn't much for us to biopsy in our long-term responders. We have biopsied a few patients with progressive disease, but we haven't analyzed that tissue yet."

Brain Metastases?

...Asked about the likelihood that the drug works on brain metastases. Sznol noted that this trial excluded patients with active brain lesions, but accepted patients with previously-treated central nervous system tumors. Therefore the answer to the question remains unknown. "But we have long-term responders who didn't develop any brain metastases, so that suggests that maybe we are controlling disease in the brain," he said.

There are now three ongoing Phase III trials testing nivolumab in patients with metastatic melanoma. A trial testing the drug in patients with brain metastases has been proposed, but Sznol said he did not know if it was approved or would go forward.

For what it's worth....Overall, the response is still very good over 2 years...and if you're a complete responder you may not "ever" need to have any more drug.  While the "brain effect" remains a backwards way...Nivolumab looks like it may have a good effect there as well. group is in a different group all together, because of the volume of disease THIS group was dealing with vs the NED level my group had. Still a lot of unanswered questions:  How long does response REALLY last?  What is the best treatment dose?  What is the best treatment frequency?  What about folks with no prior treatment?  What about folks with brain tumors?  Come on BMS and Merck....risk a little of your bottom line for the ratties.  Let brain tumor patients in a trial.  YOU don't have anything to REALLY do you????  Just say'n - C


  1. I think this is promising, but you are right. It would be really nice to have a longer response than two years, and why not let others into the study. They really have nothing to lose, but they could have the opportunity to pioneer some studies!

  2. Sounding pretty good! They just have to continue moving forward with this!

  3. seems they are definitely on the right track...just need to know what makes one a complete responder and another not...

  4. My husband is doing IPI and PD 1 trial through a local hospital. He is on the IPI first, we can't see any growth on the cancer on the outside really but we are so hoping it does not spread before trying the PD1. that is really what he wanted to receive first but on trials its the luck of the draw. I wish we could get more than 2 years but that is better than just 4-5 months!

  5. I hope he does well. The combo...regardless of thought by some to offer the very best chance of success! Hang in there!