Phase II Study of Nivolumab and Salvage Nivolumab/Ipilimumab in Treatment-Naive Patients With Advanced Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (HCRN GU16-260-Cohort A)

J Clin Oncol. 2022 Sep 1;40(25):2913-2923. doi: 10.1200/JCO.21.02938. Epub 2022 Apr 20.


Purpose: To determine the value of tumor cell programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression as a predictive biomarker of nivolumab monotherapy efficacy in treatment-naive patients with clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) and the efficacy of salvage nivolumab/ipilimumab in patients with tumors unresponsive to nivolumab monotherapy.

Methods: Eligible patients with treatment-naive ccRCC received nivolumab until progressive disease (PD), toxicity, or completing 96 treatment weeks (part A). Patients with PD before or stable disease at 48 weeks could receive salvage nivolumab/ipilimumab (part B). The primary end point was improvement in 1-year progression-free survival in patients with tumor PD-L1 expression > 20% versus 0%.

Results: One hundred twenty-three patients were enrolled. The objective response rate (ORR) was 34.1% (95% CI, 25.8 to 43.2). ORR by International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium category was favorable-risk 57.1%, intermediate-risk/poor-risk 25.0%, and by sarcomatoid features 36.4%. The ORR was 26.9%, 50.0%, and 75.0% for patients with the tumor PD-L1 expression of 0, 1-20, or > 20%, respectively (trend test P value = .002). The median duration of response was 27.6 (19.3 to not reached) months, with 26 of 42 responders including 17 of 20 with favorable-risk disease remaining progression-free. The 1-year progression-free survival was 34.6% and 75.0% in the PD-L1 = 0% and > 20% categories, respectively (P = .050). Ninety-seven patients with PD or prolonged stable disease were potentially eligible for part B, and 35 were enrolled. The ORR for part B was 11.4%. Grade ≥ 3 treatment-related adverse events occurred in 35% of patients on nivolumab and 43% of those on salvage nivolumab/ipilimumab.

Conclusion: Nivolumab monotherapy is active in treatment-naive ccRCC. Although efficacy appears to be less than that of nivolumab/ipilimumab in patients with intermediate-risk/poor-risk disease, favorable-risk patients had notable benefit. Efficacy correlated with tumor PD-L1 status. Salvage nivolumab/ipilimumab was frequently not feasible and of limited benefit.

Trial registration: NCT03117309.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • B7-H1 Antigen / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab* / adverse effects


  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab

Supplementary concepts

  • Clear-cell metastatic renal cell carcinoma

Associated data