Background: Patients with advanced squamous-cell non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have disease progression during or after first-line chemotherapy have limited treatment options. This randomized, open-label, international, phase 3 study evaluated the efficacy and safety of nivolumab, a fully human IgG4 programmed death 1 (PD-1) immune-checkpoint-inhibitor antibody, as compared with docetaxel in this patient population.
Methods: We randomly assigned 272 patients to receive nivolumab, at a dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight every 2 weeks, or docetaxel, at a dose of 75 mg per square meter of body-surface area every 3 weeks. The primary end point was overall survival.
Results: The median overall survival was 9.2 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 7.3 to 13.3) with nivolumab versus 6.0 months (95% CI, 5.1 to 7.3) with docetaxel. The risk of death was 41% lower with nivolumab than with docetaxel (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.44 to 0.79; P<0.001). At 1 year, the overall survival rate was 42% (95% CI, 34 to 50) with nivolumab versus 24% (95% CI, 17 to 31) with docetaxel. The response rate was 20% with nivolumab versus 9% with docetaxel (P=0.008). The median progression-free survival was 3.5 months with nivolumab versus 2.8 months with docetaxel (hazard ratio for death or disease progression, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.47 to 0.81; P<0.001). The expression of the PD-1 ligand (PD-L1) was neither prognostic nor predictive of benefit. Treatment-related adverse events of grade 3 or 4 were reported in 7% of the patients in the nivolumab group as compared with 55% of those in the docetaxel group.
Conclusions: Among patients with advanced, previously treated squamous-cell NSCLC, overall survival, response rate, and progression-free survival were significantly better with nivolumab than with docetaxel, regardless of PD-L1 expression level. (Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb; CheckMate 017 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01642004.).