Injected Opdivo for Kidney Cancer Works Equally Well as IV Form: Study

By   |  January 30, 2024

By Ernie Mundell HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

TUESDAY, Jan. 30, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Opdivo, one of the new generation of immunotherapy cancer treatments, appears to help kidney cancer patients equally well when given as a quick injection versus the current method of intravenous delivery, a new study finds.

The results of the new trial using injected Opdivo (nivolumab) could free up time and money for cancer patients, the research team said.

“The burden of treatment felt by cancer patients is tremendous. If nivolumab can be given as a subcutaneous [below the skin] injection instead of an intravenous infusion, patients’ treatment experience will be significantly improved,” said study lead author Dr. Saby George.

“Instead of one hour in an infusion chair, they will get the injection done in five minutes," said George, a professor of oncology and medicine and director of network clinical trials at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

His team presented the findings Saturday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco. The trial was funded by Opdivo's maker, Bristol Myers Squibb.

In the study, George and his colleagues followed outcomes for 495 people with advanced or metastatic kidney cancers who were treated at 73 different cancer care centers across 17 countries, including Roswell Park.

All of the patients were new to an immunotherapy drug like Opdivo, although they may have already tried up to two types of standard chemotherapy.

Half of the patients got Opdivo in the standard way: Visiting an infusion center for about an hour. The other half received the drug via a quick injection.

Daily blood levels of the drug were tracked for 28 days after receiving it, and no significant differences were found between injected and IV delivery, according to the study.

Furthermore, patients appeared to benefit from Opdivo regardless of how it was delivered.

For example, the percentage of patients who achieved at least a "partial response" from the drug was about 24% for those it got the injection vs. about 18% of those who received it via IV drip.

Progression-free survival -- the time elapsed with no sign of cancer progression -- was about 7.2 months for patients who got injected Opdivo versus about 5.6 months for those who received it via IV, the team reported.

Opdivo is FDA-approved for more than 20 purposes across multiple cancer types, so its success with kidney cancer patients may be only the beginning, the researchers noted.

“This is a groundbreaking achievement for patients and physicians, and will definitely make treatment easier for patients,” George said in a Roswell Park news release.

“If nivolumab becomes available subcutaneously, we can administer it in the clinic instead of sending patients to infusion centers,” he said. That might lower drug wait times for patients generally.

It might also reduce disparities between urban and rural cancer patients.

"One of the major problems is access to treatment,” George explained. “Patients who don’t live near an infusion center could get treatment closer to home, at a clinic, and that could improve access and help reduce disparities.”

Because the new findings were presented at a medical meeting, they should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Find out more about kidney cancer treatments at the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, news release, Jan. 27, 2024