Please note that this summary only contains information from the full scientific abstract: View ESMO Scientific Abstract

Comparing medical problems related to different immunotherapies in people with cancer

Date of summary: September 2019

The full title of this abstract is: Immune-related adverse events (irAEs) with single-agent PD-1 vs PD-L1 inhibitors: a meta-analysis of 8,730 patients from clinical trials

The study drugs are not approved to treat all the
conditions that are discussed in this summary.


Researchers must look at the results of many types
of studies to understand whether a study drug
works, how it works, and whether it is safe to
prescribe to patients.

This summary reports the results of 43 studies. The
results of these studies might be different from the
results of other studies that the researchers look at.


More information can be found in the scientific
abstract of this study, which you can access here:
View ESMO Scientific Abstract

What did this study look at?

  • Avelumab is an immunotherapy drug. It may help the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells.
  • Avelumab attaches to a protein called PD-L1, which is found on cancer cells.
    • PD-L1 tells immune cells (the body’s defense cells) not to attack cancer cells, which is like putting the ‘brakes’ on the immune system.
    • When avelumab attaches to PD-L1, it can stop PD-L1 from working. This releases the ‘brakes’ on the immune system.
  • PD-1 is a protein found on a specific type of immune cell.
    • If PD-1 and PD-L1 link together, this can stop immune cells from attacking cancer cells.
    • Immunotherapies that attach to PD-1 can help the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.
  • Anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 immunotherapies are approved for treating cancer in Europe.
  • Anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 immunotherapies are thought to be similar in terms of their safety, even though these therapies have not been directly compared in clinical trials.
  • In this study, researchers combined and analyzed results from 43 clinical studies of people with cancer being treated with avelumab or other anti-PD-1 or anti-PD-L1 immunotherapies.
  • This summary describes selected, clinically relevant immune-related medical problems that people experienced while being treated with avelumab or other immunotherapies in various cancers.

Who took part in this study?

  • In total, results were included from 8,730 people with cancer who were treated with PD-1 or PD-L1 targeting immunotherapy in 43 different studies.
  • The researchers split the people receiving immunotherapies into 2 groups based on these 2 types of therapies.

What were the results of the study?

  • Researchers used a scoring system to estimate the risk of developing selected immune-related medical problems.
    • The higher the score, the higher the risk of developing a selected immune-related medical problem.
    • Before the study began, the researchers selected the immune-related medical problems that they thought weremost relevant. They used these medical problems to help compare the results from different therapies.

More results from this study can be found here:

View ESMO Scientific Abstract

What were the main conclusions reported by the researchers?

  • The risk of developing any of the serious selected immune-related medical problems was higher for people in Group B (who received anti-PD-1 immunotherapy) than for people in Group A (who received anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy).
  • Compared with the other immunotherapies:
    • People receiving atezolizumab in Group A had the lowest risk of developing any of the selected immune-related medical problems
    • People receiving avelumab had the second lowest risk of developing any of the selected immune-related medical problems.
  • More research is needed to get a better understanding of the medical problems that might occur with different immunotherapies.

Who sponsored this study?

Pfizer Inc.
235 East 42nd Street NY, NY 10017
Phone (United States): +1 212-733-2323

EMD Serono, Inc.
An a¡liate of Merck KGaA,
Darmstadt, Germany
One Technology Place Rockland, MA 02370
Phone (United States Headquarters): +1 800 283-8088

The sponsors would like to thank all of the people who took part in this study.

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