Comparative Effectiveness of Atezolizumab, Nivolumab, and Docetaxel in Patients With Previously Treated Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Academic Article uri icon

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  • Importance

    Evidence regarding real-world effectiveness of therapies for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors are resistant to platinum-based chemotherapy is lacking.


    To compare the effectiveness of the immune checkpoint inhibitors atezolizumab (programmed cell death ligand 1 inhibitor) and nivolumab (programmed cell death 1 inhibitor) and the chemotherapy drug docetaxel in patients with advanced NSCLC resistant to platinum-based chemotherapy.

    Design, setting, and participants

    This comparative effectiveness study compared patients aged 18 years or older with advanced NSCLC who initiated atezolizumab, docetaxel, or nivolumab and who had previously been exposed to platinum-based chemotherapy using nationally representative real-world data from more than 280 US cancer clinics. Patients were followed-up from May 2011 to March 2020. Data analysis was performed between April and June 2021. Comparisons of interest were between atezolizumab vs docetaxel and atezolizumab vs nivolumab.


    Initiation of atezolizumab, nivolumab, or docetaxel monotherapy.

    Main outcome and measures

    The main outcome was overall survival (OS).


    A total of 3336 patients (mean [SD] age, 67.1 [9.49] years; 1820 [54.6%] men and 1516 [45.4%] women) were assessed in the main analysis, including 206 patients receiving atezolizumab, 500 receiving docetaxel, and 2630 receiving nivolumab. Patients receiving atezolizumab were older than those treated with docetaxel (mean age [SD], 68.3 [9.4] years vs 65.6 [9.5] years), and were more likely to have been treated in an academic setting (39 patients [18.9%]) than those receiving docetaxel (49 patients [9.8%]) and nivolumab (128 patients [4.9%]). After adjustment for baseline characteristics, atezolizumab was associated with a significantly longer OS compared with docetaxel (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 0.79; 95% CI, 0.64-0.97). No significant difference in OS was observed between atezolizumab and nivolumab (aHR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.89-1.28). These findings were consistent across all patient subgroups tested, and robust to plausible deviations from random missingness for Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status in real-world data (eg, the tipping point for loss of a significantly beneficial effect for atezolizumab vs docetaxel was achieved if patients in the docetaxel group missing baseline Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status had a mean performance status of 1.43 higher than expected).

    Conclusions and relevance

    In this comparative effectiveness study, atezolizumab was superior to docetaxel and matched nivolumab in prolonging OS in a real-world cohort of patients with advanced NSCLC who previously received platinum-based chemotherapy.


  • Ramagopalan, Sreeram
  • Gupta, Alind
  • Arora, Paul
  • Thorlund, Kristian
  • Ray, Joshua
  • Subbiah, Vivek

publication date

  • November 2021