Atezolizumab and nivolumab both produce similar, higher improvements in overall survival compared to docetaxel in NSCLC patients
Atezolizumab and nivolumab have been found to prolong overall survival (OS) in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cancer say researchers from Hoffmann-La Roche, Basel, Switzerland. NSCLC accounts for 85% of all lung cancers although nearly 40% of patients are diagnosed at stage 4, which has a poor prognosis, warranting systemic therapy. Treatment of NSCLC can be achieved with platinum-based chemotherapy although many patients relapse and in such cases, mono-therapy with the chemotherapeutic agent, docetaxel, has been found to be effective.
In recent years it has been discovered that developing tumours are capable of evading the immune system by avoiding checkpoint signals designed to prevent uncontrolled activation of T lymphocytes. Monoclonal antibodies including nivolumab and atezolizumab, work to either inhibit checkpoint PD-1 surface receptors (nivolumab) or its ligand, PD-L1 (atezolizumab) thereby blocking these receptors and signals, enabling the immune system to combat the tumour. Although both monoclonal antibodies are approved for use in NSCLC, there is a lack of head-to-head studies comparing these two agents even in comparison to docetaxel.
For the present study, researchers examined real-world studies contained within the US nationwide electronic health record, in which patients with advanced NSCLC and prior platinum-based therapy, who had been started on either atezolizumab, nivolumab or docetaxel. They included adults (18 years and over) diagnosed with locally advanced and/or metastatic NSCLC, none of whom had been previously treated with one of the three agents. The team also only included patients with at least 6 months of follow-up data and set the primary endpoint as overall survival.
In total, 3336 patients were included in the analysis with 206 receiving atezolizumab, 500 docetaxel and 2630 nivolumab. Patients in the atezolizumab and nivolumab groups were of a similar mean age, 68.3 and 67.3 years respectively while those in the docetaxel group were slightly younger with a mean age of 65.6 years.
Compared to docetaxel, use of atezolizumab was associated with a significantly longer survival (adjusted hazard ratio, aHR = 0.79, 95% CI 0.64 – 0.97, p = 0.02) even among those with different cancer stages. In contrast, the adjusted hazard ratio for atezolizumab compared with nivolumab was 1.07 (95% CI 0.89 – 1.28, p = 0.47) and this did not differ between patients at different cancer stages. However, the authors recognised that their analysis may not have been sufficiently powered to detect a difference between these two treatments.
The authors concluded that their real-world data suggested that atezolizumab and nivolumab produced a longer overall survival than docetaxel among those who had failed to respond to platinum-based chemotherapy.
Ramagopalan S et al. Comparative Effectiveness of Atezolizumab, Nivolumab, and Docetaxel in Patients With Previously Treated Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer. JAMA Netw Open 2021