Our team based in Seattle conducted a comprehensive review including evolving trends in the management of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). This summary covers key decision points, including recommended work-up during initial diagnosis, treatment options for MCC when it’s in one place or has spread, management of recurrent MCC, and new treatments that are showing promise with fewer side effects and good results. This review gives valuable information on how to handle MCC overall and emphasizes new methods that are effective and less toxic on patients.
Background: Retrospective studies have suggested a potential risk of hyperprogressive disease (HPD) in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). We compared the incidence of HPD during treatment with nivolumab±ipilimumab versus natural tumor progression with placebo in post hoc analyses of two randomized, double-blind clinical trials.
Methods: ATTRACTION-2 randomized patients with advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer (GC/GEJC) and progression on ≥2 prior regimens to nivolumab 3 mg/kg Q2W or placebo. CheckMate 451 randomized patients with extensive-disease small cell lung cancer (ED SCLC) and ongoing complete/partial response or stable disease after first-line chemotherapy to nivolumab 240 mg Q2W, nivolumab 1 mg/kg+ipilimumab 3 mg/kg Q3W for four doses then nivolumab 240 mg Q2W, or placebo. Patients receiving ≥1 dose of study drug and with tumor scans at baseline and the first on-treatment evaluation were included in the HPD analyses. HPD definitions were ≥20%, ≥50%, and ≥100% increase in target lesion sum of the longest diameters (SLD) at the first on-treatment assessment.
Results: In the ATTRACTION-2 HPD-evaluable population, 243 patients received nivolumab and 115 placebo. Fewer patients receiving nivolumab versus placebo had increases in SLD ≥20% (33.7% vs 46.1%) and ≥50% (6.2% vs 11.3%); similar proportions had increases in SLD ≥100% (1.6% vs 1.7%). In the CheckMate 451 HPD-evaluable population, 177 patients received nivolumab, 179 nivolumab+ipilimumab, and 175 placebo. Fewer patients receiving nivolumab or nivolumab+ipilimumab versus placebo had increases in SLD ≥20% (27.1%, 27.4% vs 45.7%), ≥50% (10.2%, 11.2% vs 22.3%), and ≥100% (2.8%, 2.8% vs 6.3%).
Conclusions: Nivolumab±ipilimumab was not associated with an increased rate of progression versus placebo in patients with GC, GEJC, or ED SCLC, suggesting that previous reports of HPD may reflect the natural disease course in some patients rather than ICI-mediated progression.