Opdivo was the first PD-1 inhibitor to show durable responses in patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
Patients with previously untreated, unresectable, advanced esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) had significantly better overall survival (OS) when treated with Opdivo (nivolumab) in addition to either chemotherapy or Yervoy (ipilimumab), as opposed to patients treated with chemotherapy alone.
The first results of the CheckMate-648 study, which notably marked Opdivo as the first PD-1 inhibitor to durable responses and better OS in patients with ESCC, were presented at the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.
“So we actually have not just one, but two new treatment options for our patients,” said Dr. Ian Chau, consultant medical oncologist Royal Mardsen Hospital in the United Kingdom and lead study author, in an interview with CURE®. “And apart from improving their survival, we also noticed it’s not just related to the average survival, we've noticed that there were longer term survivors in the immunotherapy-containing arms.”
Chau also noted that tumor shrinkage achieved by the immunotherapy in the study lasted longer than tumor shrinkage from chemotherapy alone.
Cancer of the esophagus carries a poor prognosis. Each year globally, over half a million of patients will die from this disease. And in this particular study, we look at a subtype … called squamous cell cancer that is actually the most predominant type in this disease. And for decades, there has been no improvements in our treatment outcome for our patients. And for patients where their cancer has already spread or has already gone to other places, the average lifespan is only about 10 months or less. So there really is a lot that we need to improve on. So we performed this study, which is called CheckMate-648 study, where we have patients with this disease who are newly diagnosed with cancer, which unfortunately has already presented a stage where it has spread. All patients who may previously have had more localized disease, had some treatment, but unfortunately, the cancer had come back.
And what we've found is that patients who have received immunotherapy, so the group who have either added immunotherapy to chemotherapy, or the group where they have two immunotherapy drugs, both of these groups have shown a significantly better survival compared to patients who have chemotherapy alone, which is what we have been treating patients (with) for decades. So we actually have not just one, but two new treatment options for our patients. And apart from improving their survival, we also noticed it’s not just related to the average survival, we've noticed that there were longer term survivors in the immunotherapy-containing arms. And we also note in this study that for patients who have tumors shrinkage, which was achieved by immunotherapy, the tumors shrinkage lasts for much longer than the tumor shrinkage that was achieved by chemotherapy alone.
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