A multicenter phase 1 study of nivolumab for relapsed hematologic malignancies after allogeneic transplantation

Blood. 2020 Jun 11;135(24):2182-2191. doi: 10.1182/blood.2019004710.


Programmed cell death-1 (PD-1)/programmed death ligand-1 blockade may potentially augment graft-vs-tumor effects following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT), but retrospective studies of anti-PD-1 therapy reported substantial toxicity from graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). Here, we report the results of a prospective clinical trial of PD-1 blockade for relapsed hematologic malignancies (HMs) after alloHCT (NCT01822509). The primary objective in this phase 1 multicenter, investigator-initiated study was to determine maximum tolerated dose and safety. Secondary objectives were to assess efficacy and immunologic activity. Patients with relapsed HMs following alloHCT were eligible. Nivolumab was administered every 2 weeks until progression or unacceptable toxicity, starting with a 1-mg/kg cohort, with planned deescalation based on toxicity to a 0.5-mg/kg cohort. Twenty-eight patients were treated (n = 19 myeloid, n = 9 lymphoid). Median age was 57 years (range 27-76), and median time from alloHCT to enrollment was 21 months (range 5.6-108.5). Two of 6 patients treated at 1 mg/kg experienced dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) from immune-related adverse events (irAEs). Twenty-two patients were treated at 0.5 mg/kg, and 4 DLTs occurred, including 2 irAEs and 2 with fatal GVHD. The overall response rate in efficacy-evaluable patients was 32% (8/25). With a median follow-up of 11 months, the 1-year progression-free survival and overall survival were 23% and 56%, respectively. In this first prospective clinical trial of an anti-PD-1 antibody for post-alloHCT relapse, GVHD and irAEs occurred, requiring dose deescalation, with only modest antitumor activity. Further studies of anti-PD-1 therapy post-alloHCT may require specific toxicity mitigation strategies. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT01822509.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allografts
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Graft vs Host Disease / etiology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nivolumab / administration & dosage
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects
  • Nivolumab / therapeutic use*
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Treatment Failure


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • PDCD1 protein, human
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor
  • Nivolumab

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01822509