Background: The combination of an immune checkpoint inhibitor and a VEGF pathway inhibitor to treat patients with advanced renal-cell carcinoma might increase the clinical benefit of these drugs compared with their use alone. Here, we report preliminary results for the combination of avelumab, an IgG1 monoclonal antibody against the programmed cell death protein ligand PD-L1, and axitinib, a VEGF receptor inhibitor approved for second-line treatment of advanced renal-cell carcinoma, in treatment-naive patients with advanced renal-cell carcinoma. Methods: The JAVELIN Renal 100 study is an ongoing open-label, multicentre, dose-finding, and dose-expansion, phase 1b study, done in 14 centres in the USA, UK, and Japan. Eligible patients were aged 18 years or older (≥20 years in Japan) and had histologically or cytologically confirmed advanced renal-cell carcinoma with clear-cell component, life expectancy of at least 3 months, an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 1 or less, received no previous systemic treatment for advanced renal cell carcinoma, and had a resected primary tumour. Patients enrolled into the dose-finding phase received 5 mg axitinib orally twice daily for 7 days, followed by combination therapy with 10 mg/kg avelumab intravenously every 2 weeks and 5 mg axitinib orally twice daily. Based on the pharmacokinetic data from the dose-finding phase, ten additional patients were enrolled into the dose-expansion phase and assigned to this regimen. The other patients in the dose-expansion phase started taking combination therapy directly. The primary endpoint was dose-limiting toxicities in the first 4 weeks (two cycles) of treatment with avelumab plus axitinib. Safety and antitumour activity analyses were done in all patients who received at least one dose of avelumab or axitinib. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02493751. Findings: Between Oct 30, 2015, and Sept 30, 2016, we enrolled six patients into the dose-finding phase and 49 into the dose-expansion phase of the study. One dose-limiting toxicity of grade 3 proteinuria due to axitinib was reported among the six patients treated during the dose-finding phase. At the cutoff date (April 13, 2017), six (100%, 95% CI 54–100) of six patients in the dose-finding phase and 26 (53%, 38–68) of 49 patients in the dose-expansion phase had confirmed objective responses (32 [58%, 44–71] of all 55 patients). 32 (58%) of 55 patients had grade 3 or worse treatment-related adverse events, the most frequent being hypertension in 16 (29%) patients and increased concentrations of alanine aminotransferase, amylase, and lipase, and palmar-plantar erythrodysaesthesia syndrome in four (7%) patients each. Six (11%) of 55 patients died before data cutoff, five (9%) due to disease progression and one (2%) due to treatment-related autoimmune myocarditis. At the end of the dose-finding phase, the maximum tolerated dose established for the combination was avelumab 10 mg/kg every 2 weeks and axitinib 5 mg twice daily. Interpretation: The safety profile of the combination avelumab plus axitinib in treatment-naive patients with advanced renal-cell carcinoma seemed to be manageable and consistent with that of each drug alone, and the preliminary data on antitumour activity are encouraging. A phase 3 trial is assessing avelumab and axitinib compared with sunitinib monotherapy. Funding: Pfizer and Merck.
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