Avelumab treatment for patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma can be safely stopped after 1 year and a PET/CT-confirmed complete response
October 3, 2023
October 3, 2023
The ideal duration for continuing immunotherapy is still being studied. This study assessed 25 patients who stopped avelumab (a type of immunotherapy) after 1 year of treatment (26 infusions) and a PET/CT scan that confirmed a complete response to the treatment. The study found that 88% of these patients remained MCC-free 12 months after stopping treatment, indicating that patients who show a PET/CT-confirmed response to immunotherapy one year after starting may be able to stop treatment quite safely.
Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment of patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC) has shown high response rates, ranging from 33% to 73%. The ideal duration of treatment, however, is currently unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate if avelumab treatment for mMCC can be safely stopped after 1 year of treatment and a complete response (CR) confirmed by fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) imaging.
Methods: Patients who received more than one dose of avelumab treatment for mMCC between November 2017 and February 2022 were included in this study. Treatment was discontinued in case of a FDG-PET/CT confirmed CR after 1 year (26 cycles) of avelumab or a CR and unacceptable toxicity earlier. The primary end point was recurrence-free survival (RFS).
Results: Sixty-five patients were included: 25 (38%) had a FDG-PET/CT-confirmed CR at discontinuation of avelumab. In those 25 patients, reasons for discontinuation of treatment were completion of 1 year of treatment in 13 (52%), toxicity in five (20%), and patient preference in seven (28%). Median duration of treatment in this group was 11 months (interquartile range, 6.1-11.7). Median follow-up was 27 months (interquartile range, 15.8-33.8). The 12-month RFS was 88% (95% CI, 0.74-1) and median RFS was not reached. Two patients (8%) had a recurrence at 4 and 7 months after discontinuation of treatment.
Conclusions: Patients with mMCC who acquire a CR on PET/CT imaging appear to have durable responses after discontinuation of treatment after 1 year.