Lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab versus sunitinib as first-line treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (CLEAR): extended follow-up from the phase 3, randomised, open-label study

Lancet Oncol. 2023 Mar;24(3):228-238. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(23)00049-9.


Background: In the primary analysis of the CLEAR study, lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab significantly improved progression-free survival and overall survival versus sunitinib in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (data cutoff Aug 28, 2020). We aimed to assess overall survival based on 7 months of additional follow-up.

Methods: This is a protocol-prespecified updated overall survival analysis (data cutoff March 31, 2021) of the open-label, phase 3, randomised CLEAR trial. Patients with clear-cell advanced renal cell carcinoma who had not received any systemic anticancer therapy for renal cell carcinoma, including anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy, or any systemic investigational anticancer drug, were eligible for inclusion from 200 sites (hospitals and cancer centres) across 20 countries. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to receive lenvatinib (20 mg per day orally in 21-day cycles) plus pembrolizumab (200 mg intravenously every 21 days; lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab group), lenvatinib (18 mg per day orally) plus everolimus (5 mg per day orally; lenvatinib plus everolimus group [not reported in this updated analysis]) in 21-day cycles, or sunitinib (50 mg per day orally, 4 weeks on and 2 weeks off; sunitinib group). Eligible patients were at least 18 years old with a Karnofsky performance status of 70 or higher. A computer-generated randomisation scheme was used, and stratification factors were geographical region and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center prognostic groups. The primary endpoint was progression-free survival assessed by independent imaging review according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors version 1.1 (RECIST v1.1). In this Article, extended follow-up analyses for progression-free survival and protocol-specified updated overall survival data are reported for the intention-to-treat population. No safety analyses were done at this follow-up. This study is closed to new participants and is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02811861.

Findings: Between Oct 13, 2016, and July 24, 2019, 1417 patients were screened for inclusion in the CLEAR trial, of whom 1069 (75%; 273 [26%] female, 796 [74%] male; median age 62 years [IQR 55-69]) were randomly assigned: 355 (33%) patients (255 [72%] male and 100 [28%] female) to the lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab group, 357 (33%) patients (275 [77%] male and 82 [23%] female) to the sunitinib group, and 357 (33%) patients to the lenvatinib plus everolimus group (not reported in this updated analysis). Median follow-up for progression-free survival was 27·8 months (IQR 20·3-33·8) in the lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab group and 19·4 months (5·5-32·5) in the sunitinib group. Median progression-free survival was 23·3 months (95% CI 20·8-27·7) in the lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab group and 9·2 months (6·0-11·0) in the sunitinib group (stratified hazard ratio [HR] 0·42 [95% CI 0·34-0·52]). Median overall survival follow-up was 33·7 months (IQR 27·4-36·9) in the lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab group and 33·4 months (26·7-36·8) in the sunitinib group. Overall survival was improved with lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab (median not reached [95% CI 41·5-not estimable]) versus sunitinib (median not reached [38·4-not estimable]; HR 0·72 [95% CI 0·55-0·93]).

Interpretation: Efficacy benefits of lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab over sunitinib were durable and clinically meaningful with extended follow-up. These results support the use of lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab as a first-line therapy for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma.

Funding: Eisai and Merck Sharp & Dohme.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell*
  • Everolimus
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sunitinib


  • Everolimus
  • lenvatinib
  • pembrolizumab
  • Sunitinib

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02811861