Nivolumab plus chemotherapy or ipilimumab in gastro-oesophageal cancer

Nature. 2022 Mar;603(7903):942-948. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04508-4. Epub 2022 Mar 23.


Standard first-line chemotherapy results in disease progression and death within one year in most patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative gastro-oesophageal adenocarcinoma1-4. Nivolumab plus chemotherapy demonstrated superior overall survival versus chemotherapy at 12-month follow-up in gastric, gastro-oesophageal junction or oesophageal adenocarcinoma in the randomized, global CheckMate 649 phase 3 trial5 (programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) combined positive score ≥5 and all randomized patients). On the basis of these results, nivolumab plus chemotherapy is now approved as a first-line treatment for these patients in many countries6. Nivolumab and the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) inhibitor ipilimumab have distinct but complementary mechanisms of action that contribute to the restoration of anti-tumour T-cell function and induction of de novo anti-tumour T-cell responses, respectively7-11. Treatment combining 1 mg kg-1 nivolumab with 3 mg kg-1 ipilimumab demonstrated clinically meaningful anti-tumour activity with a manageable safety profile in heavily pre-treated patients with advanced gastro-oesophageal cancer12. Here we report both long-term follow-up results comparing nivolumab plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone and the first results comparing nivolumab plus ipilimumab versus chemotherapy alone from CheckMate 649. After the 24.0-month minimum follow-up, nivolumab plus chemotherapy continued to demonstrate improvement in overall survival versus chemotherapy alone in patients with PD-L1 combined positive score ≥5 (hazard ratio 0.70; 95% confidence interval 0.61, 0.81) and all randomized patients (hazard ratio 0.79; 95% confidence interval 0.71, 0.88). Overall survival in patients with PD-L1 combined positive score ≥ 5 for nivolumab plus ipilimumab versus chemotherapy alone did not meet the prespecified boundary for significance. No new safety signals were identified. Our results support the continued use of nivolumab plus chemotherapy as standard first-line treatment for advanced gastro-oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma* / drug therapy
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols* / therapeutic use
  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Esophagogastric Junction
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab / adverse effects
  • Ipilimumab / therapeutic use
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects
  • Nivolumab / therapeutic use
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab

Supplementary concepts

  • Adenocarcinoma Of Esophagus