Kidney Cancer Coverage From Every Angle

GU Cancers Symposium: New Immunotherapy Combination in Advanced Kidney Cancer

By: Meg Barbor, MPH
Posted: Monday, February 26, 2018

Combining the antiangiogenic agent axitinib with the immunotherapy pembrolizumab led to significant tumor shrinkage in 73% of previously untreated patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma, with a median time to disease progression of 20.9 months. These data are from an early-phase clinical trial, presented by Michael B. Atkins, MD, of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, at the 2018 ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco (Abstract 579).

“Our results are unprecedented. The combination doubled the efficacy of the drugs when used alone, and the treatment was found to be tolerable,” said Dr. Atkins. “Specifically, over 90% of patients exhibited tumor shrinkage, and the disease was kept under control for a median of over 20 months.”

All 52 patients in the study were treatment-naive. They received an intravenous infusion of pembrolizumab at the start of the trial and then every 3 weeks thereafter and also took axitinib twice daily until either no benefit was seen or they could no longer tolerate the drug. No unexpected side effects were identified, and overall survival results are still incomplete, as the majority of patients (88%) were alive at a minimum of 18 months after starting therapy.

“Significantly, patients had fewer liver abnormalities and less fatigue than those treated with other similar combination therapies,” Dr. Atkins added. 

A randomized phase III trial comparing the drug combination with sunitinib monotherapy is underway. “We think this combination could present a major advance in the treatment of this disease, as well as help define effective combinations of similar drugs for other cancers,” the investigators reported.