Activity of ipilimumab plus nivolumab in avelumab-refractory Merkel cell carcinoma

January 13, 2021


Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

Publication Date

January 13, 2021


Valerie Glutsch, Hermann Kneitz, Anja Gesierich, Matthias Goebeler, Sebastian Haferkamp, Jürgen C. Becker, Selma Ugurel, Bastian Schilling


Background: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and aggressive neuroendocrine cutaneous malignancy with poor prognosis. In Europe, approved systemic therapies are limited to the PD-L1 inhibitor avelumab. For avelumab-refractory patients, efficient and safe treatment options are lacking.

Methods: At three different sites in Germany, clinical and molecular data of patients with metastatic MCC being refractory to the PD-L1 inhibitor avelumab and who were later on treated with combined IPI/NIVO were retrospectively collected and evaluated.

Results: Five patients treated at three different academic sites in Germany were enrolled. Three out of five patients investigated for this report responded to combined IPI/NIVO according to RECIST 1.1. Combined immunotherapy was well tolerated without any grade II or III immune-related adverse events. Two out of three responders to IPI/NIVO received platinum-based chemotherapy in between avelumab and combined immunotherapy.

Conclusion: In this small retrospective study, we observed a high response rate and durable responses to subsequent combined immunotherapy with IPI/NIVO in avelumab-refractory metastatic MCC patients. In conclusion, our data suggest a promising activity of second- or third-line PD-1- plus CTLA-4-blockade in patients with anti-PD-L1-refractory MCC.

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