Efficacy and immune-related adverse event associations in avelumab-treated patients

J Immunother Cancer. 2020 Nov;8(2):e001427. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2020-001427.


Background: Adverse events (AEs) of special interest that arise during treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors, including immune-related AEs (irAEs), have been reported to be associated with improved clinical outcomes. We analyzed patients treated with avelumab from the JAVELIN Solid Tumor and Merkel 200 trials, examining the association between AEs and efficacy while adjusting for confounding factors such as treatment duration and event order.

Methods: We analyzed efficacy and safety data from 1783 patients treated with the programmed death ligand 1 inhibitor avelumab who were enrolled in expansion cohorts of the JAVELIN Solid Tumor and Merkel 200 trials. To analyze the association between irAEs and efficacy with regard to survival, we used a time-dependent Cox model with time-varying indicators for irAEs, as well as multistate models that accounted for competing risks and time inhomogeneity.

Results: 295 patients (16.5%) experienced irAEs and 454 patients (25.5%) experienced infusion-related reactions. There was a reduced risk of death in patients who experienced irAEs compared with those who did not (HR 0.71, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.85) using the time-dependent Cox model. The multistate model did not suggest that the occurrence of irAEs could predict response; however, it predicted a higher chance of irAEs occurring after a response. No association was observed between response and infusion-related reactions.

Conclusions: Patients who experience irAEs showed improved survival. Although irAEs are not predictors for response to immune checkpoint inhibitors, increased vigilance for irAEs is needed after treatment with avelumab.

Trial registration numbers: NCT01772004 and NCT02155647.

Keywords: biostatistics; immunotherapy; programmed cell death 1 receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / pharmacology
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


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

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02155647
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01772004