Anti-PD-1 antibody monotherapy versus anti-PD-1 plus anti-CTLA-4 combination therapy as first-line immunotherapy in unresectable or metastatic mucosal melanoma: a retrospective, multicenter study of 329 Japanese cases (JMAC study)

ESMO Open. 2021 Dec;6(6):100325. doi: 10.1016/j.esmoop.2021.100325. Epub 2021 Nov 25.


Background: Anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) antibody monotherapy (PD1) has led to favorable responses in advanced non-acral cutaneous melanoma among Caucasian populations; however, recent studies suggest that this therapy has limited efficacy in mucosal melanoma (MCM). Thus, advanced MCM patients are candidates for PD1 plus anti-cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) combination therapy (PD1 + CTLA4). Data on the efficacy of immunotherapy in MCM, however, are limited. We aimed to compare the efficacies of PD1 and PD1 + CTLA4 in Japanese advanced MCM patients.

Patients and methods: We retrospectively assessed advanced MCM patients treated with PD1 or PD1 + CTLA4 at 24 Japanese institutions. Patient baseline characteristics, clinical responses (RECIST), progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS) were estimated using Kaplan-Meier analysis, and toxicity was assessed to estimate the efficacy and safety of PD1 and PD1 + CTLA4.

Results: Altogether, 329 patients with advanced MCM were included in this study. PD1 and PD1 + CTLA4 were used in 263 and 66 patients, respectively. Baseline characteristics were similar between both treatment groups, except for age (median age 71 versus 65 years; P < 0.001). No significant differences were observed between the PD1 and PD1 + CTLA4 groups with respect to objective response rate (26% versus 29%; P = 0.26) or PFS and OS (median PFS 5.9 months versus 6.8 months; P = 0.55, median OS 20.4 months versus 20.1 months; P = 0.55). Cox multivariate survival analysis revealed that PD1 + CTLA4 did not prolong PFS and OS (PFS: hazard ratio 0.83, 95% confidence interval 0.58-1.19, P = 0.30; OS: HR 0.89, 95% confidence interval 0.57-1.38, P = 0.59). The rate of ≥grade 3 immune-related adverse events was higher in the PD1 + CTLA4 group than in the PD1 group (53% versus 17%; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: First-line PD1 + CTLA4 demonstrated comparable clinical efficacy to PD1 in Japanese MCM patients, but with a higher rate of immune-related adverse events.

Keywords: anti-CTLA-4 antibody; anti-PD-1 antibody; ipilimumab; mucosal melanoma; nivolumab; pembrolizumab.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Japan
  • Melanoma* / drug therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms*


  • CTLA-4 Antigen