A new research has suggested that treating advanced melanoma patients with combination of two new drugs, which help their immune systems fight cancer, is more effective than using either drug alone.
Treating advanced melanoma patients with either a combination of the immunotherapy drugs nivolumab and ipilimumab or nivolumab alone significantly increased progression-free survival (PFS) over using ipilimumab alone.
Patients receiving the combination experienced a median PFS of 11.5 months, while median PFS for patients receiving nivolumab alone was 6.9 months and ipilimumab alone was 2.9 months. Of the 314 patients receiving the combination, 57.6 percent had an objective response, measured as a significant reduction in tumor size, versus 43.7 percent of the 316 receiving nivolumab alone and 19 percent of the 315 receiving ipilimumab alone.
Adverse side effects such as diarrhea and increased lipase occurred in 55 percent of patients receiving the combination, leading about one-third of these patients to stop the regimen. About 16 percent of patients receiving nivolumab alone and 27 percent of patients receiving ipilimumab alone experienced side effects, with nearly 8 percent and 15 percent of patients discontinuing, respectively.
Notably in this trial, patients whose tumors expressed PD-L1 experienced a median PFS of 14 months regardless of whether they received the combination or nivolumab alone, but for patients whose tumors did not express PD-L1, the median PFS was longer on the combination (11.2 months) than on nivolumab alone (5.3 months).
The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).