The immunotherapy agent, Opdivo® (nivolumab), improves survival in kidney cancer compared to the standard treatment, Afinitor® (everolimus). These results were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

About Renal Cell Carcinoma

Each year in the United States, more than 61,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which starts in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney. For people with advanced RCC (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body), targeted therapies can play an important role in treatment. Approximately 20-30% of patients with RCC will have metastases at diagnosis and as many as 40% will demonstrate metastasis after primary surgical treatment for localized RCC.  With a 5-year survival rate ranging from 5-10%, the prognosis for these patients is poor. 

About Opdivo

Opdivo is a precision cancer medicine that belongs to a new class of medicines called PD-1 inhibitors that have generated great excitement for their ability to help the immune system recognize and attack cancer. PD-1 is a protein that inhibits certain types of immune responses. Drugs that block PD-1 may enhance the ability of the immune system to fight cancer. Opdivo works by blocking PD-1. PD-1 inhibitors are being investigated in more than 30 different cancers, and it is already approved for the treatment of melanoma and lung cancer and researchers continue to evaluate its effectiveness in different types of cancer.

The most recent clinical trial evaluating Opdivo in kidney cancer included 821 patients with advanced clear-cell renal-cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer) who had received prior antiangiogenic therapy. Patients were treated with either Opdivo or Afinitor and directly compared.

Overall, Opdivo was well tolerated with fewer side effects than Afinitor. Anti-cancer responses occurred in 25% of patients treated with Opdivo compared with only 5% of patients treated with Afinitor.

The time to cancer progression was similar for both drugs, but on average patients survived 25 months when treated with Opdivo, compared with 19.6 months for those treated with Afinitor.

The researchers concluded that overall survival was significantly improved with the treatment of Opdivo compared to Afinitor in patients with previously treated kidney cancer.

Reference: Motzer R, Escudier B, McDermott D, et al. Nivolumab versus everolimus in advanced renal-cell carcinoma. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015. 2015DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1510665.



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