Randomized Phase 1 Trial of Pembrolizumab with Sequential Versus Concomitant Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy in Metastatic Urothelial Carcinoma

Eur Urol. 2019 May;75(5):707-711. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2019.01.009. Epub 2019 Jan 19.


Preclinical data indicate that radiotherapy works synergistically with pembrolizumab, but the effect and toxicity of this combination may depend on radiotherapy timing. We conducted a randomized phase 1 trial combining pembrolizumab with either sequential (A) or concomitant (B) stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) in metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC). No dose-limiting toxicity occurred. Treatment-related adverse events (trAEs; Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events v4.0) of grade 1-2 occurred in six of nine and all nine patients in arms A and B, respectively. One grade 3 trAE occurred in arm B. No grade 4-5 trAEs occurred. Overall response rates of 0% and 44.4% were noted in arms A and B, respectively, as per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors v1.1. The trial was not powered to compare efficacy between arms. Targeted sequencing of tissue DNA and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) revealed high genomic concordance. Treatment response was associated with ctDNA fraction decline. We conclude that sequential and concomitant SBRT can be safely combined with pembrolizumab in mUC and that the effect of SBRT timing on efficacy is worth exploring further. PATIENT SUMMARY: This study assessed the safety of pembrolizumab combined with radiotherapy at two different time points in metastatic bladder cancer. We conclude that the combination treatment was well tolerated.

Keywords: Checkpoint inhibitor; Circulating tumor DNA; Immunotherapy; Metastatic urothelial carcinoma; Precision oncology; Stereotactic body radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Comparative Study
  • Letter
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Radiosurgery / adverse effects*
  • Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors
  • Time Factors
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / pathology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • pembrolizumab