Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare but clinically aggressive cancer with a high mortality rate. In recent years, antibodies blocking the interactions among PD-1 and its ligands have generated durable tumor regressions in patients with advanced MCC. However, there is a paucity of data regarding effective therapy for patients whose disease is refractory to PD-1 pathway blockade. This retrospective case series describes a heterogeneous group of patients treated with additional immune checkpoint blocking therapy after MCC progression through anti-PD-1. Among 13 patients treated with anti-CTLA-4, alone or in combination with anti-PD-1, objective responses were seen in 4 (31%). Additionally, one patient with MCC refractory to anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 experienced tumor regression with anti-PD-L1. Our report - the largest case series to date describing this patient population - provides evidence that sequentially-administered salvage immune checkpoint blocking therapy can potentially activate anti-tumor immunity in patients with advanced anti-PD-1-refractory MCC and provides a strong rationale for formally testing these agents in multicenter clinical trials. Additionally, to the best of our knowledge, our report is the first to demonstrate possible anti-tumor activity of second-line treatment with a PD-L1 antibody in a patient with anti-PD-1-refractory disease.
Lopiccolo, J., Schollenberger, M. D., Dakhil, S., Rosner, S., Ali, O., Sharfman, W. H., … Lipson, E. J. (2019). Rescue therapy for patients with anti-PD-1-refractory Merkel cell carcinoma: A multicenter, retrospective case series. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40425-019-0661-6