Suzanne L. Topalian, MD
“Avelumab (Bavencio) is the very first drug approved for Merkel cell carcinoma, an orphan disease that is uncommon in the United States. For that reason, pharmacologic development has been slow. In this case, laboratory evidence provided a rationale for testing checkpoint inhibitors in Merkel cell carcinoma, a disease that occurs mainly in older people,” explained Suzanne L. Topalian, MD, who moderated a press conference where these data were presented. Dr. Topalian is Associate Director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins and Director of the Johns Hopkins Melanoma Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baltimore.
“We think that with age, immune systems are less competent. Nevertheless, in this group of heavily pretreated patients with an average age of 73 years, avelumab achieved a good response rate and survival,” Dr. Topalian said.
“Other checkpoint inhibitors have promising activity in this disease, which previously had no therapeutic options. I would call this study practice-changing,” she stated.
Disclosure: Dr. Topalian has received research grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Avelumab (Bavencio) achieved durable responses in patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma, according to longer-term follow-up of the phase II JAVELIN study, the largest study conducted to date in this relatively rare orphan cancer.1 Results were presented at the 2017 American Association for ...