In the phase III CheckMate 238 study, adjuvant nivolumab significantly improved recurrence-free survival (RFS) and distant metastasis-free survival versus ipilimumab in patients with resected stage IIIB–C or stage IV melanoma, with benefit sustained at 4 years. We report updated 5-year efficacy and biomarker findings.
Patients and Methods:
Patients with resected stage IIIB–C/IV melanoma were stratified by stage and baseline programmed death cell ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression and received nivolumab 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks or ipilimumab 10 mg/kg every 3 weeks for four doses and then every 12 weeks, both intravenously for 1 year until disease recurrence, unacceptable toxicity, or withdrawal of consent. The primary endpoint was RFS.
At a minimum follow-up of 62 months, RFS with nivolumab remained superior to ipilimumab (HR = 0.72; 95% confidence interval, 0.60–0.86; 5-year rates of 50% vs. 39%). Five-year distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) rates were 58% with nivolumab versus 51% with ipilimumab. Five-year overall survival (OS) rates were 76% with nivolumab and 72% with ipilimumab (75% data maturity: 228 of 302 planned events). Higher levels of tumor mutational burden (TMB), tumor PD-L1, intratumoral CD8+ T cells and IFNγ-associated gene expression signature, and lower levels of peripheral serum C-reactive protein were associated with improved RFS and OS with both nivolumab and ipilimumab, albeit with limited clinically meaningful predictive value.
Nivolumab is a proven adjuvant treatment for resected melanoma at high risk of recurrence, with sustained, long-term improvement in RFS and DMFS compared with ipilimumab and high OS rates. Identification of additional biomarkers is needed to better predict treatment outcome.