Safety, tolerability and efficacy of agonist anti-CD27 antibody (varlilumab) administered in combination with anti-PD-1 (nivolumab) in advanced solid tumors

J Immunother Cancer. 2022 Aug;10(8):e005147. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2022-005147.


Background: Phase 1/2 dose-escalation and expansion study evaluating varlilumab, a fully human agonist anti-CD27 mAb, with nivolumab in anti-PD-1/L1 naïve, refractory solid tumors.

Methods: Phase 1 evaluated the safety of varlilumab (0.1-10 mg/kg) with nivolumab (3 mg/kg) administered once every 2 weeks. Phase 2 evaluated varlilumab regimens (3 mg/kg once every 2 weeks, 3 mg/kg once every 12 weeks, and 0.3 mg/kg once every 4 weeks) with nivolumab 240 mg once every 2 weeks in tumor-specific cohorts. Primary objective was safety; key clinical endpoints included objective response rate (ORR) and overall survival rate at 12 months (OS12) (glioblastoma (GBM) only). Exploratory objectives included determination of effects on peripheral blood and intratumoral immune signatures.

Results: 175 patients were enrolled (36 in phase 1 and 139 in phase 2). Phase 1 dose-escalation proceeded to the highest varlilumab dose level without determining a maximum tolerated dose. In phase 2, ORR were ovarian 12.5%, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck 12.5%, colorectal cancer 5%, and renal cell carcinoma 0%; GBM OS12 was 40.9%. Increased tumor PD-L1 and intratumoral T cell infiltration were observed in ovarian cancer patients, with increases of ≥5% associated with better progression-free survival. The most common treatment related adverse events were fatigue (18%), pruritus (16%), and rash (15%).

Conclusion: Varlilumab and nivolumab were well tolerated, without significant toxicity beyond that expected for each agent alone. Clinical activity was observed in patients that are typically refractory to anti-PD-1 therapy, however, overall was not greater than expected for nivolumab monotherapy. Treatment was associated with proinflammatory changes in the tumor microenvironment, particularly in ovarian cancer where the changes were associated with better clinical outcomes.

Trial registration number: NCT02335918.

Keywords: clinical trials as topic; combined modality therapy; immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • varlilumab
  • Nivolumab

Associated data