Background: Treatment with programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) antibodies is associated with high response rates in patients with advanced melanoma. Reliable markers for early response and outcome are still sparse.
Methods: We evaluated 66 consecutive patients with advanced/metastatic melanoma treated with nivolumab or pembrolizumab between 2013 and 2014. The main objectives of this study were to investigate whether, first, serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) at baseline (normal vs above the upper limit of normal) correlates with overall survival (OS), and, second, whether the change of LDH during treatment predicts response before the first scan and OS in patients with an elevated baseline LDH.
Results: After a median follow-up of 9 months, patients with an elevated baseline LDH (N=34) had a significantly shorter OS compared with patients with normal LDH (N=32; 6-month OS: 60.8% vs 81.6% and 12-month OS: 44.2% vs 71.5% (log-rank P=0.0292). In those 34 patients with elevated baseline LDH, the relative change during treatment was significantly associated with an objective response on the first scan: the 11 (32%) patients with partial remission had a mean reduction of -27.3% from elevated baseline LDH. In contrast, patients with progressive disease (N=15) had a mean increase of +39%. Patients with a relative increase over 10% from elevated baseline LDH had a significantly shorter OS compared with patients with ⩽ 10% change (4.3 vs 15.7 months, log-rank P<0.00623).
Conclusions: LDH could be a useful marker at baseline and during treatment to predict early response or progression in patients with advanced melanoma who receive anti-PD-1 therapy.