Phase III Study of Adjuvant Ipilimumab (3 or 10 mg/kg) Versus High-Dose Interferon Alfa-2b for Resected High-Risk Melanoma: North American Intergroup E1609

J Clin Oncol. 2020 Feb 20;38(6):567-575. doi: 10.1200/JCO.19.01381. Epub 2019 Dec 27.


Purpose: Phase III adjuvant trials have reported significant benefits in both relapse-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) for high-dose interferon alfa (HDI) and ipilimumab at 10 mg/kg (ipi10). E1609 evaluated the safety and efficacy of ipilimumab at 3 mg/kg (ipi3) and ipi10 versus HDI.

Patients and methods: E1609 was a phase III trial in patients with resected cutaneous melanoma (American Joint Committee on Cancer 7th edition stage IIIB, IIIC, M1a, or M1b). It had 2 coprimary end points: OS and RFS. A 2-step hierarchic approach first evaluated ipi3 versus HDI followed by ipi10 versus HDI.

Results: Between May 2011 and August 2014, 1,670 adult patients were centrally randomly assigned (1:1:1) to ipi3 (n = 523), HDI (n = 636), or ipi10 (n = 511). Treatment-related adverse events grade ≥ 3 occurred in 37% of patients receiving ipi3, 79% receiving HDI, and 58% receiving ipi10, with adverse events leading to treatment discontinuation in 35%, 20%, and 54%, respectively. Comparison of ipi3 versus HDI used an intent-to-treat analysis of concurrently randomly assigned patient cases (n = 1,051) and showed significant OS difference in favor of ipi3 (hazard ratio [HR], 0.78; 95.6% repeated CI, 0.61 to 0.99; P = .044; RFS: HR, 0.85; 99.4% CI, 0.66 to 1.09; P = .065). In the second step, for ipi10 versus HDI (n = 989), trends in favor of ipi10 did not achieve statistical significance. Salvage patterns after melanoma relapse showed significantly higher rates of ipilimumab and ipilimumab/anti-programmed death 1 use in the HDI arm versus ipi3 and ipi10 (P ≤ .001).

Conclusion: Adjuvant therapy with ipi3 benefits survival versus HDI; for the first time to our knowledge in melanoma adjuvant therapy, E1609 has demonstrated a significant improvement in OS against an active control regimen. The currently approved adjuvant ipilimumab dose (ipi10) was more toxic and not superior in efficacy to HDI.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2 / therapeutic use
  • Ipilimumab / administration & dosage*
  • Ipilimumab / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Young Adult


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Ipilimumab

Supplementary concepts

  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant