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First Line Immunotherapy Combination Fails to Improve Overall Survival in Lung Cancer

13 Dec 2018
Thoracic Malignancies

GENEVA, Switzerland- First line immunotherapy with durvalumab or the combination of durvalumab and tremelimumab does not improve overall survival in unselected patients with lung cancer, according to late breaking results from the MYSTIC trial presented at the ESMO Immuno-Oncology Congress. (1)

The combination of immune checkpoint inhibitors and chemotherapy has been successfully tested in different trials as first line therapy for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) while the use of two immunotherapy drugs without chemotherapy has been addressed in very few studies. Commenting on behalf of ESMO, Dr Pilar Garrido said: “Some patients are worried about the side effects of chemotherapy and prefer to delay it. Avoiding the use of chemotherapy in the first line setting also leaves an effective rescue option when immunotherapy fails.”

The MYSTIC trial enrolled 1,118 patients with metastatic NSCLC who were randomly allocated to durvalumab alone, durvalumab plus tremelimumab, or chemotherapy. The primary endpoints were overall survival for durvalumab versus chemotherapy, and overall survival and progression free survival for durvalumab plus tremelimumab versus chemotherapy in patients with 25% or greater PD-L1 expression in tumour cells.


A total of 488 patients (44%) had PD-L1 expression of 25% or greater. Durvalumab alone or with tremelimumab did not improve overall survival or progression free survival compared to chemotherapy. Study author Dr Naiyer Rizvi, director of thoracic oncology and immunotherapeutics, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, US, said: “While not reaching statistical significance, durvalumab monotherapy gave a clinically meaningful median overall survival improvement of 16.3 months compared to 12.9 months with chemotherapy in patients with 25% or greater PD-L1 expression.”

An exploratory analysis examined survival according to high or low tumour mutational burden (TMB) in the blood – 16 or more mutations per megabase was defined as “high” and less than 16 as “low”. (2) TMB evaluation was performed in more than 70% of patients, of whom 40% had high TMB.

In patients with high TMB, overall survival was 16.5 months with durvalumab plus tremelimumab versus 10.5 months with chemotherapy, with a hazard ratio of 0.62. Overall survival with durvalumab alone was 11 months. The proportion of high TMB patients alive at two years was 39% with durvalumab plus tremelimumab, 30% with durvalumab, and 18% with chemotherapy. In those with low TMB, overall survival was 8.5 months with durvalumab plus tremelimumab, 12.2 months with durvalumab, and 11.6 months with chemotherapy.

Rizvi said: “The results of the exploratory analysis need to be validated in a future trial. TMB is measured with a simple blood test and might be an easy way to select patients for this treatment. The CheckMate 227 trial previously showed that first line immunotherapy combinations work best in advanced NSCLC patients with high TMB.”  (3)

Safety data were consistent with previous studies. The incidence of grade 3/4 treatment-related adverse events was 14.6%, 22.1% and 33.8% with durvalumab, durvalumab plus tremelimumab, and chemotherapy, respectively.

“Immunotherapy has rapidly become a first line treatment option in NSCLC, as shown in the 2018 ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for metastatic disease,” said Garrido, head of the Thoracic Tumour Section, Medical Oncology Department, Ramón y Cajal University Hospital, Madrid, Spain. (4) “The ESMO Immuno-Oncology Congress showcases cutting edge developments in this fast moving field, such as the highly anticipated MYSTIC trial. The analysis shows that appropriate biomarkers are needed to select the patients most likely to benefit from combination immunotherapy in first line. The challenge now is to prospectively validate them prior to implementation in clinical practice.”

Notes to Editors

Please make sure to use the official name of the meeting in your reports: ESMO Immuno-Oncology Congress

Official Congress Hashtag:  #ESMOImmuno18


  1. Abstract LBA6 ‘Durvalumab with or without tremelimumab vs platinum-based chemotherapy as first-line treatment for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: MYSTIC ‘ will be presented by N. A. Rizvi during Proffered Paper session I on Thursday, 13 December, 18:15 to 19:00 (CET) in Room A. Annals of Oncology, Volume 29, 2018 Supplement 10. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdy493
  2. The tumour mutational burden cut off of 16 mutations per megabase in the blood is equivalent to the cut off used in the CheckMate 227 trial of ten mutations per megabase in the tumour.
  3. Hellmann MD, Ciuleanu TE, Pluzanski A, et al. Nivolumab plus Ipilimumab in Lung Cancer with a High Tumor Mutational Burden. N Engl J Med. 2018.;378:2093–2104. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1801946.
  4. Planchard D, Popat S, Kerr K, et al. Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Ann Oncol. 2018;29(Supplement 4):iv192–iv237. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdy275.
About the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)

ESMO is the leading professional organisation for medical oncology. With more than 20,000 members representing oncology professionals from over 150 countries worldwide, ESMO is the society of reference for oncology education and information. ESMO is committed to offer the best care to people with cancer, through fostering integrated cancer care, supporting oncologists in their professional development, and advocating for sustainable cancer care worldwide.

LBA6 - Durvalumab with or without tremelimumab vs platinum-based chemotherapy as first-line treatment for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: MYSTIC

N.A. Rizvi1, B. Chul Cho2, N. Reinmuth3, K.H. Lee4, M-J. Ahn5, A. Luft6, M. van den Heuvel7, M. Cobo8, A. Smolin9, D. Vicente10, V. Moiseyenko11, S.J. Antonia12, S. Le Moulec13, G. Robinet14, R. Natale15, K. Nakagawa16, L. Zhao17, P.K. Stockman18, V. Chand17, S. Peters19

1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, USA, 2Yonsei Cancer Center, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 3Thoracic Oncology, Asklepios Lung Clinic, Munich-Gauting, Germany, 4Medical Oncology, Chungbuk National University Hospital, Seowon-gu, Republic of Korea, 5Department of Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 6Oncology Department, Leningrad Regional Clinical Hospital, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, 7Medical Oncology, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Nederlands Kanker Instituut, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 8Oncología Médica, H.R.U. Carlos Haya, Malaga, Spain, 9Medical Oncology, Main Military Hospital, Moscow, Russian Federation, 10Clinical Oncology Department, Hosp Univ Virgen Macarena, Seville, Spain, 11Cancer Centre, Clinical Research Center, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, 12Thoracic Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL, USA, 13Service d’Oncologie Médicale, Institut Bergonnié, Bordeaux, France, 14Institut de Cancérologie et d’Hématologie, CHRU de Brest - Hôpital du Morvan, Brest, France, 15Medical Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Comp Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA, 16Department of Internal Medicine, Kindai University Hospital, Osaka, Japan, 17Immuno-Oncology, Global Medicines Development, AstraZeneca, Gaithersburg, MD, USA, 18Immuno-Oncology, Global Medicines Development, AstraZeneca, Cambridge, UK, 19Multidisciplinary Oncology Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland

Background: Durvalumab (D), a human IgG1 mAb against PD-1 and CD80, has shown clinical activity in patients (pts) with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Tremelimumab (T) is a human IgG2 mAb against CTLA-4. D+T has previously also shown durable responses in metastatic NSCLC (mNSCLC). MYSTIC (NCT02453282) was an open-label, Phase 3 trial of first-line treatment with D vs platinum-based doublet chemotherapy (CT) and D+T vs CT in mNSCLC.

Methods: Eligible pts had mNSCLC; were immunotherapy/chemotherapy-naïve; and had no EGFR sensitising mutation or ALK rearrangement. Tumour cell (TC) PD-L1 expression (≥25% vs <25%) and histology were stratification factors. Patients were randomised (1:1:1) to D (20 mg/kg i.v. q4w); D+T (D: 20 mg/kg i.v. q4w; T: 1 mg/kg i.v. q4w [up to 4 doses]); or CT (intended up to 6 cycles; pemetrexed maintenance permitted in eligible pts) until disease progression. Primary endpoints were overall survival (OS) for D vs CT and OS and progression free survival (PFS; blinded independent central review [RECIST v1.1]) for D+T vs CT in pts with PD-L1 TC expression ≥25%, defined by the VENTANA PD-L1 (SP263) assay. Data cutoffs were 4 Oct 2018 (OS and safety) and 1 Jun 2017 (PFS).

Results: 1118 pts were randomised. Baseline characteristics were balanced. Efficacy findings are presented for the 488 pts with PD-L1 TC ≥25%. Median OS was 16.3 vs 12.9 months for D vs CT (HR 0.76 [97.54% CI, 0.564, 1.019]; p¼0.036) and 11.9 vs 12.9 months for D+T vs CT (HR 0.85 [98.77% CI, 0.611, 1.173]; p¼0.202). Median PFS was 3.9 vs 5.4 months for D+T vs CT (HR 1.05 [99.5% CI, 0.722, 1.534]; p¼0.705). 39.5% pts in the CT arm received subsequent immunotherapy after treatment discontinuation vs 6.1%and 3.1% pts in the D and D+T arms. Incidence of Grade 3/4 treatment-related AEs was 14.6%, 22.1% and 33.8% with D, D+T and CT, respectively. Efficacy based on additional PD-L1 cutoffs will be presented.
Conclusions: In pts with mNSCLC, while statistical significance was not achieved for primary OS and PFS endpoints, first-line D demonstrated clinically meaningful improvement in OS vs CT (PD-L1 TC ≥25%). Safety data were consistent with the known safety profiles of D+/-T. Further analyses are ongoing.

Editorial acknowledgement: Medical writing support, which was in accordance with Good Publication Practice (GPP3) guidelines, was provided by Rebecca Douglas, PhD, of Cirrus Communications (Macclesfield, UK), an Ashfield company, and was funded  by AstraZeneca.

Clinical trial identification: NCT02453282 (release date: May 25, 2015).

Legal entity responsible for the study: AstraZeneca plc.

Funding: AstraZeneca.

Disclosure: N.A. Rizvi: Advisory boards: Abbvie, AZ, BMS, EMD Serono, Genentech, GSK, Janssen, Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Regeneron, Neogenomics, Oncomed, Gritstone, Bellicum; Equity: Oncomed, Gritstone, Bellicum, ARMO; Royalties: PGDX. B. Chul Cho: Research funding: Novartis, Bayer, AstraZeneca,MOGAM Institute, Dong-A ST, Champions Oncology, Janssen, Yuhan, Ono, Dizal Pharma, MSD Consultancy: Novartis, AZ, BI, Roche, BMS, Ono, Yuhan, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Takeda, MSD; Stock: TheraCanVac, Inc. N. Reinmuth: Personal fees: AstraZeneca, Roche, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Takeda, MSD, BMS, Novartis, Pfizer, Merck. A. Smolin: Grants: AstraZeneca; Grants and personal fees: AstraZeneca, Roche, MSD, BMS; Personal fees: BIOCAD, Boehringer-Ingelheim. S.J. Antonia: Advisory board/contracted research: BMS, Novartis, Merck, CBMG, Boehringer-Ingelheim, AstraZeneca/ MedImmune, Memgen, FLX Bio, Nektar, Venn. G. Robinet: Grants and personal fees: AstraZeneca; Grants and personal fees: MSD; Personal fees: Boehringer-Ingelheim. R.Natale: Spouse: Employee (Medical Science Liaison) of AZ (salary/compensation completely unrelated to the contracted research work performed at my institution that is the subject of the submitted abstract). L. Zhao: Full time employment: AstraZeneca. P.K. Stockman: Full-time employee, stock ownership: AstraZeneca. V. Chand: Fulltime employment: AstraZeneca; stock ownership: BMS. S. Peters: Personal fees: Abbvie, Amgen, AZ, Bayer, Biocartis, BI, BMS, Clovis, Daiichi Sankyo, Debiopharm, Eli Lilly, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Foundation Medicine, Illumina, Janssen, MSD, Merck Serono, Merrimack, Novartis, Pharma Mar, Pfizer, Regeneron, Sanofi, Seattle Genetics, Takeda; Non-financial support: Amgen, AZ, BI, BMS, Clovis, F. Hoffmann- La Roche, Illumina, MSD, Merck Serono, Novartis, Pfizer. All other authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

Last update: 13 Dec 2018

This press release contains information provided by the authors of the highlighted abstracts and reflects the content of those abstracts. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ESMO who cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the data. Commentators quoted in the press release are required to comply with the ESMO Declaration of Interests policy and the ESMO Code of Conduct.

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