Combination Immunotherapy Helps Patients With Kidney Cancer Live Longer and ‘Get Back to Their Regular Lives’

Treatment-free survival with Opdivo and Yervoy was more than twice as long when compared with Sutent alone in patients with kidney cancer.

When given as a frontline treatment, the immunotherapy combination of Opdivo (nivolumab) plus Yervoy (ipilimumab) induced longer treatment-free survival time without toxicity compared with Sutent (sunitinib) in patients with advanced kidney cancer that has not previously been treated, according to recent study results.

In an interview with CURE®, Dr. Meredith M. Regan, lead author on this study and associate professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said that immunotherapy regimens like Opdivo plus Yervoy have been a welcomed change for this patient population, as they may allow patients to live longer without having to be on continuous cancer therapy.

“These results are important for patients because it shows that we’ve been able to start thinking about not just the disease control … but also how patients are spending that survival time. And I think that’s a great point — could we get patients back to their regular lives,” she said.

Researchers investigated treatment-free survival (time between protocol therapy cessation and subsequent systemic therapy initiation or death, as defined by the authors) in 550 patients who received Opdivo plus Yervoy and 546 patients who received Sutent alone.

At 42 months since initiating treatment, 52% of patients receiving Opdivo plus Yervoy and 39% of the patients administered Suntent who were at immediate or poor risk were still alive; 18% and 5% were surviving free of treatment, respectively.

For patients who were at favorable risk, 70% and 73% were still alive and 20% and 9% were treatment free, in the Opdivo plus Yervoy group and Sutent group, respectively.

Regan noted that these results are promising because it gives patients two treatment options.

Treatment-free survival was more than twice as long in the Opdivo plus Yervoy group (6.9 months) compared with the Sutent group (3.1 months) and more than three times as long for favorable-risk patients (11 vs 3.7 months), over the 42-month period.

Regan explained that treatment-free survival is beneficial because a patient can have their disease controlled without being on treatment. Therefore, they will not be burdened by going to the clinic for infusions, side effects or the financial toxicities that come with it.

During that time frame treatment-free survival without toxicity remained more than twice as long with Opdivo plus Yervoy compared with Sutent. This is important because patients can live long without therapy or treatment, but sometimes side effects and toxicities can come later after treatment has stopped, Regan explained.

She mentioned that this combination therapy represents a “big advance for patients” because it allows them to live longer, without toxicity —which is the goal, as well as the possibility to eventually stop therapy if that’s what the patient wants.

“What I hope the results mean for patients is that they and their doctors can think together about different treatment options …” she said. “We hope that now patients and their clinicians can talk about the trade-offs and what their treatment goals are.”

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