Background: On the basis of data from a phase 2 trial that compared the checkpoint inhibitor ipilimumab at doses of 0.3 mg, 3 mg, and 10 mg per kilogram of body weight in patients with advanced melanoma, this phase 3 trial evaluated ipilimumab at a dose of 10 mg per kilogram in patients who had undergone complete resection of stage III melanoma.
Methods: After patients had undergone complete resection of stage III cutaneous melanoma, we randomly assigned them to receive ipilimumab at a dose of 10 mg per kilogram (475 patients) or placebo (476) every 3 weeks for four doses, then every 3 months for up to 3 years or until disease recurrence or an unacceptable level of toxic effects occurred. Recurrence-free survival was the primary end point. Secondary end points included overall survival, distant metastasis-free survival, and safety.
Results: At a median follow-up of 5.3 years, the 5-year rate of recurrence-free survival was 40.8% in the ipilimumab group, as compared with 30.3% in the placebo group (hazard ratio for recurrence or death, 0.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.64 to 0.89; P<0.001). The rate of overall survival at 5 years was 65.4% in the ipilimumab group, as compared with 54.4% in the placebo group (hazard ratio for death, 0.72; 95.1% CI, 0.58 to 0.88; P=0.001). The rate of distant metastasis-free survival at 5 years was 48.3% in the ipilimumab group, as compared with 38.9% in the placebo group (hazard ratio for death or distant metastasis, 0.76; 95.8% CI, 0.64 to 0.92; P=0.002). Adverse events of grade 3 or 4 occurred in 54.1% of the patients in the ipilimumab group and in 26.2% of those in the placebo group. Immune-related adverse events of grade 3 or 4 occurred in 41.6% of the patients in the ipilimumab group and in 2.7% of those in the placebo group. In the ipilimumab group, 5 patients (1.1%) died owing to immune-related adverse events.
Conclusions: As adjuvant therapy for high-risk stage III melanoma, ipilimumab at a dose of 10 mg per kilogram resulted in significantly higher rates of recurrence-free survival, overall survival, and distant metastasis-free survival than placebo. There were more immune-related adverse events with ipilimumab than with placebo. (Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00636168 , and EudraCT number, 2007-001974-10 .).