Comparative Effectiveness of Front-Line Ipilimumab and Nivolumab or Axitinib and Pembrolizumab in Metastatic Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma

Kevin K. Zarrabi, Elizabeth Handorf, Benjamin Miron, Matthew R. Zibelman, Fern Anari, Pooja Ghatalia, Elizabeth R. Plimack, Daniel M. Geynisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) is rapidly evolving with new combination therapies demonstrating improved response rates and survival. There are no head-to-head prospective trials comparing an immunotherapy doublet with an immunotherapy/tyrosine-kinase inhibitor-based combination. We compare real-world outcomes in patients treated with axitinib/pembrolizumab (axi/pembro) or ipilimumab/nivolumab (ipi/nivo). The primary endpoints were overall-survival (OS) and real-world progression-free survival (rwPFS). PATIENTS AND METHODS: We used a de-identified database to select patients diagnosed with clear cell mRCC and treated with front-line axi/pembro or ipi/nivo from 2018 to 2022. Analyses are adjusted using propensity score-based inverse probability of treatment weighting, balancing age, gender, insurance, race, IMDC risk, and nephrectomy status. We compared survival by treatment groups using weighted and unweighted Kaplan-Meier curves with log-rank tests and weighted Cox proportional hazards regressions. RESULTS: We included a total of 1506 patients with mRCC who received frontline axi/pembro (n = 547) or ipi/nivo (n = 959). Median follow-up time was 20.0 months (range: 0.2-47.6). Baseline demographics were similar between the 2 cohorts. Adjusted median OS for the full population was 28.9 months for axi/pembro and was 24.3 months for ipi/nivo (P = .09). Twenty-four-month survival was 53.8% for axi/pembro treated patients and 50.2% for ipi/nivo treated patients. rwPFS was 10.6 months for axi/pembro treated patients and 6.9 months for ipi/nivo treated patients. Treatment with axi/pembro conferred improved survival in the IMDC favorable risk strata, with no significant difference in survival observed within the full cohort. CONCLUSIONS: In this retrospective, real-world study of patients treated with front-line combination therapy, patients with IMDC favorable risk disease had better survival when treated with axi/pembro compared to ipi/nivo. However, survival for the entire population and the 24-month median overall survival were not statistically different between treatment groups. Longer follow-up is necessary to discern any emerging significant differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 8 2023


  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols/therapeutic use
  • Axitinib/pharmacology
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell/drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab/pharmacology
  • Kidney Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Nivolumab/pharmacology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies


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