Efficacy and Safety of Nivolumab Plus Ipilimumab versus Sunitinib in First-line Treatment of Patients with Advanced Sarcomatoid Renal Cell Carcinoma

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Jan 1;27(1):78-86. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-2063. Epub 2020 Sep 1.


Purpose: Patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma with sarcomatoid features (sRCC) have poor prognoses and suboptimal outcomes with targeted therapy. This post hoc analysis of the phase III CheckMate 214 trial analyzed the efficacy of nivolumab plus ipilimumab (NIVO+IPI) versus sunitinib in patients with sRCC.

Patients and methods: Patients with sRCC were identified via independent central pathology review of archival tumor tissue or histologic classification per local pathology report. Patients were randomized 1:1 to receive nivolumab (3 mg/kg) plus ipilimumab (1 mg/kg) every 3 weeks (four doses) then nivolumab 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks, or sunitinib 50 mg orally every day (4 weeks; 6-week cycles). Outcomes in patients with sRCC were not prespecified. Endpoints in patients with sRCC and International Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma Database Consortium intermediate/poor-risk disease included overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS) per independent radiology review, and objective response rate (ORR) per RECIST v1.1. Safety outcomes used descriptive statistics.

Results: Of 1,096 randomized patients in CheckMate 214, 139 patients with sRCC and intermediate/poor-risk disease and six with favorable-risk disease were identified. With 42 months' minimum follow-up in patients with sRCC and intermediate/poor-risk disease, median OS [95% confidence interval (CI)] favored NIVO+IPI [not reached (NR) (25.2-not estimable [NE]); n = 74] versus sunitinib [14.2 months (9.3-22.9); n = 65; HR, 0.45 (95% CI, 0.3-0.7; P = 0.0004)]; PFS benefits with NIVO+IPI were similarly observed [median 26.5 vs. 5.1 months; HR, 0.54 (95% CI, 0.33-0.86; P = 0.0093)]. Confirmed ORR was 60.8% with NIVO+IPI versus 23.1% with sunitinib, with complete response rates of 18.9% versus 3.1%, respectively. No new safety signals emerged.

Conclusions: NIVO+IPI showed unprecedented long-term survival, response, and complete response benefits versus sunitinib in previously untreated patients with sRCC and intermediate/poor-risk disease, supporting the use of first-line NIVO+IPI for this population.See related commentary by Hwang et al., p. 5.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / drug therapy
  • Hippo Signaling Pathway
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Ipilimumab / adverse effects
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Sunitinib / therapeutic use


  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Sunitinib