Effect of Combined Immune Checkpoint Inhibition vs Best Supportive Care Alone in Patients With Advanced Colorectal Cancer
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Importance: Single-agent immune checkpoint inhibition has not shown activities in advanced refractory colorectal cancer (CRC), other than in those patients who are microsatellite-instability high (MSI-H). Objective: To evaluate whether combining programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) inhibition improved patient survival in metastatic refractory CRC. Design, Setting, and Participants: A randomized phase 2 study was conducted in 27 cancer centers across Canada between August 2016 and June 2017, and data were analyzed on October 18, 2018. Eligible patients had histologically confirmed adenocarcinoma of the colon or rectum; received all available standard systemic therapies (fluoropyrimidines, oxaliplatin, irinotecan, and bevacizumab if appropriate; cetuximab or panitumumab if RAS wild-type tumors; regorafenib if available); were aged 18 years or older; had adequate organ function; had Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1, and measurable disease. Interventions: We randomly assigned patients to receive either 75 mg of tremelimumab every 28 days for the first 4 cycles plus 1500 mg durvalumab every 28 days, or best supportive care alone (BSC) in a 2:1 ratio. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary end point was overall survival (OS) and a 2-sided P<.10 was considered statistically significant. Circulating cell-free DNA from baseline plasma was used to determine microsatellite instability (MSI) and tumor mutation burden (TMB). Results: Of 180 patients enrolled (121 men [67.2%] and 59 women [32.8%]; median [range] age, 65 [36-87] years), 179 were treated. With a median follow-up of 15.2 months, the median OS was 6.6 months for durvalumab and tremelimumab and 4.1 months for BSC (hazard ratio [HR], 0.72; 90% CI, 0.54-0.97; P = .07). Progression-free survival was 1.8 months and 1.9 months respectively (HR, 1.01; 90% CI, 0.76-1.34). Grade 3 or 4 adverse events were significantly more frequent with immunotherapy (75 [64%] patients in the treatment group had at least 1 grade 3 or higher adverse event vs 12 [20%] in the BSC group). Circulating cell-free DNA analysis was successful in 168 of 169 patients with available samples. In patients who were microsatellite stable (MSS), OS was significantly improved with durvalumab and tremelimumab (HR, 0.66; 90% CI, 0.49-0.89; P = .02). Patients who were MSS with plasma TMB of 28 variants per megabase or more (21% of MSS patients) had the greatest OS benefit (HR, 0.34; 90% CI, 0.18-0.63; P = .004). Conclusions and Relevance: This phase 2 study suggests that combined immune checkpoint inhibition with durvalumab plus tremelimumab may be associated with prolonged OS in patients with advanced refractory CRC. Elevated plasma TMB may select patients most likely to benefit from durvalumab and tremelimumab. Further confirmation studies are warranted. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02870920.
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