Discontinuation of anti-PD-1 antibody therapy in the absence of disease progression or treatment limiting toxicity: clinical outcomes in advanced melanoma

Y. J. L. Jansen, E. A. Rozeman, R. Mason, S. M. Goldinger, M. H. Geukes Foppen, L. Hoejberg, H. Schmidt, J., V van Thienen, J. B. A. G. Haanen, L. Tiainen, I. M. Svane, S. Makela, T. Seremet, A. Arance, R. Dummer, L. Bastholt, M. Nyakas, O. Straume, A. M. Menzies, G., V LongV Atkinson, C. U. Blank, B. Neyns

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BACKGROUND: Programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) blocking monoclonal antibodies improve the overall survival of patients with advanced melanoma but the optimal duration of treatment has not been established. PATIENTS AND METHODS: This academic real-world cohort study investigated the outcome of 185 advanced melanoma patients who electively discontinued anti-PD-1 therapy with pembrolizumab (N = 167) or nivolumab (N = 18) in the absence of disease progression (PD) or treatment limiting toxicity (TLT) at 14 medical centres across Europe and Australia. RESULTS: Median time on treatment was 12 months (range 0.7-43). The best objective tumour response at the time of treatment discontinuation was complete response (CR) in 117 (63%) patients, partial response (PR) in 44 (24%) patients and stable disease (SD) in 16 (9%) patients; 8 (4%) patients had no evaluable disease (NE). After a median follow-up of 18 months (range 0.7-48) after treatment discontinuation, 78% of patients remained free of progression. Median time to progression was 12 months (range 2-23). PD was less frequent in patients with CR (14%) compared with patients with PR (32%) and SD (50%). Six out of 19 (32%) patients who were retreated with an anti-PD-1 at the time of PD obtained a new antitumour response. CONCLUSIONS: In this real-world cohort of advanced melanoma patients discontinuing anti-PD-1 therapy in the absence of TLT or PD, the duration of anti-PD-1 therapy was shorter when compared with clinical trials. In patients obtaining a CR, and being treated for >6 months, the risk of relapse after treatment discontinuation was low. Patients achieving a PR or SD as best tumour response were at higher risk for progression after discontinuing therapy, and defining optimal treatment duration in such patients deserves further study. Retreatment with an anti-PD-1 at the time of progression may lead to renewed antitumour activity in some patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1154-1161
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • melanoma
  • anti-PD-1 therapy
  • duration of treatment
  • immunotherapy

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