FDA Approves First Immunotherapy as Initial Treatment of Gastric Cancers
The US Food and Drug Administration, on April 16, 2021, approved the immunotherapy nivolumab(Opdivo, Bristol-Myers Squibb) in conjunction with certain chemotherapies for the frontline treatment of advanced or metastatic gastric cancer, gastroesophageal junction cancer, and esophageal adenocarcinoma.
“Today’s approval is the first treatment in more than a decade to show a survival benefit for patients with advanced or metastatic gastric cancer who are being treated for the first time,” Richard Pazdur, MD, director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Oncologic Diseases in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, states in an FDA press release.
Opdivo is a monoclonal antibody that inhibits tumor growth by enhancing T-cell function. Its efficacy was evaluated in a randomized, multicenter, open-label trial of 1,581 patients with previously untreated advanced or metastatic gastric cancer, gastroesophageal junction cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma. The 789 patients who received Opdivo in combination with chemotherapy, on average, lived longer than the 792 patients who received chemotherapy alone. Median survival was 13.8 months for patients who received Opdivo plus chemotherapy compared to 11.6 months for patients who received chemotherapy alone.
The most common side effects of Opdivo in combination with chemotherapy include peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord), nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, constipation and musculoskeletal pain. Opdivo can cause serious conditions known as immune-mediated side effects, including inflammation of healthy organs such as the lungs (pneumonitis), colon (colitis), liver (hepatitis), endocrine glands (endocrinopathies) and kidneys (nephritis).