Immunotherapy for Merkel cell carcinoma – novel research highlights quality of life benefits

Researchers have demonstrated that in patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC), non-progression during treatment with the anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy avelumab correlates with gains in health-related quality of life (HRQoL). The findings were published recently in Future Oncology.

“MCC is a potentially devastating disease with few therapeutic options for patients until recently. The approval of avelumab and targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway for patients with MCC has provided an important new option, with some patients achieving durable responses with a tolerable safety profile,” the authors explained.

In this study, the researchers utilized data from the JAVELIN Merkel 200 Phase II trial, a trial in which 88 patients with metastatic MCC were treated with avelumab, a fully human lgG1 monoclonal antibody targeting and blocking PD-L1 interaction with its receptor PD-1.

By analyzing data from this trial, the team was able to demonstrate that the reduction of tumor size experienced under treatment with avelumab correlated with improvements in patients’ health status, as measured by both generic and skin cancer-specific HRQoL instruments.

“Now we have evidence that treatment with immunotherapy, such as avelumab, may be associated with an improvement in patient quality of life that also appears to be coordinated with lack of disease progression. Our study adds new insights into an important patient-reported outcome that further supports the significance of immunotherapy in patients with MCC,” the authors stated.

“MCC is a very aggressive form of skin cancer; therefore, it is surprising that there is a lack of consensus on the most effective treatment strategy”, commented Commissioning Editor for Future Oncology, Rachel Jenkins. “Following on from this, immunotherapy is a key area right now so it is exciting to see that avelumab has shown promise in delaying MCC progression and improving quality of life.”

Read the full article and discover exclusive-related content here.

Sources: FSG press release; Kaufman HL, Hunger M, Hennessy M, Schlichting M & Bharmal M Nonprogression with avelumab treatment associated with gains in quality of life in metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma Future Oncol. doi: 10.2217/fon-2017-0470 (2017) (Epub ahead of print)