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: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, aggressive skin cancer associated with a high risk of metastasis. In 2017, avelumab (anti-programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1)) became the first approved treatment for patients with metastatic MCC (mMCC), based on the occurrence of durable responses in a subset of patients. Here, we report long-term efficacy and safety data and exploratory biomarker analyses in patients with mMCC treated with avelumab.
Methods: In a cohort of this single-arm, phase 2 trial (JAVELIN Merkel 200), patients with mMCC and disease progression after prior chemotherapy received avelumab 10 mg/kg intravenously every 2 weeks. The primary endpoint was confirmed objective response rate (ORR) by independent review per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors V.1.1. Other assessments included duration of response, progression-free survival, overall survival (OS), safety and biomarker analyses.
Results: As of 14 September 2018, 88 patients had been followed up for a median of 40.8 months (range 36.4-49.7 months). The ORR was 33.0% (95% CI 23.3% to 43.8%), including a complete response in 11.4% (10 patients), and the median duration of response was 40.5 months (95% CI 18.0 months to not estimable). As of 2 May 2019 (≥44 months of follow-up), the median OS was 12.6 months (95% CI 7.5 to 17.1 months) and the 42-month OS rate was 31% (95% CI 22% to 41%). Of long-term survivors (OS >36 months) evaluable for PD-L1 expression status (n=22), 81.8% had PD-L1+ tumors. In exploratory biomarker analyses, high tumor mutational burden (≥2 non-synonymous somatic variants per megabase) and high major histocompatibility complex class I expression (30% of tumors with highest expression) were associated with trends for improved ORR and OS. In long-term safety assessments (≥36 months of follow-up), no new or unexpected adverse events were reported, and no treatment-related deaths occurred.
Conclusions: Avelumab showed continued durable responses and meaningful long-term survival outcomes in patients with mMCC, reinforcing avelumab as a standard-of-care treatment option for this disease.