1106 GMT October 31, 2020
This is the first time an immune therapy has resulted in a survival advantage in this setting in bladder cancer, and will potentially benefit thousands of patients each year, medicalxpress.com reported.
The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and found that avelumab led to a 31 percent reduction in risk of death of bladder cancer and extended median survival in advanced bladder cancer by more than seven months.
Approximately 550,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed each year (10,200 of which are in the UK), making it the tenth most common cancer worldwide. This trial focused on the group of these patients whose cancer had spread beyond the bladder (advanced or stage four disease), which is difficult to treat and results in more than 200,000 deaths each year worldwide.
Chemotherapy is the current initial standard of care in the treatment of these advanced cancers. After chemotherapy is finished, patients are checked regularly because the cancer tends to return quickly. When it returns it is difficult to treat and outcomes are poor.
The phase III global trial, named JAVELIN Bladder 100 and funded by Pfizer and Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany, evaluated the efficacy of the immunotherapy drug 'avelumab' in patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, whose disease had not progressed after chemotherapy.
A total of 700 patients from over 200 sites around the world were then assigned to two treatment groups after the completion of chemotherapy — one group receiving regular checking (standard care) on its own, and the other receiving avelumab in addition to standard care.
Treatment with avelumab resulted in a 31 percent reduction in risk of death and median overall survival of 21.4 months compared with 14.3 months in patients who did not receive the drug. Side effects were in line with expectations with immune therapy and 11 percent of patients stopped avelumab due to treatment problems.