New combo immunotherapy prolongs survival in patients with a
People with advanced kidney cancer were less likely to relapse when they received nivolumab (Opdivo), a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor already approved to treat this cancer, and an investigational pill called sitravatinib, early research indicates.
Sitravatinib is part of a class of targeted therapies called tyrosine kinase inhibitors or TKIs.

This phase 1-2 trial established that the new drug sitravatinib can be safely and efficiently combined with the standard of care immunotherapy drug nivolumab to improve anti-cancer immune responses in patients with clear cell kidney cancer. Given by injection, nivolumab shuts down key proteins on immune cells which, when turned on, can give cancer a free pass to spread. TKIs like sitravatinib starve cancer by cutting off its blood supply. Several TKIs are already approved to treat kidney cancer, but sitravatinib may have an advantage over these.

The researchers tested different doses of sitravatinib along with a standard dose of nivolumab in 42 people with advanced kidney cancer. None of the participants had received immunotherapy in the past, but they had relapsed after other treatments. The study took place before immunotherapy combinations became the standard of care for advanced kidney cancer.

The 120-mg dose of sitravatinib was the most effective, the researchers said. There were side effects including diarrhea and fatigue, but nothing unexpected. Fully 80% of the people were still alive after roughly 19 months, and the length of time when the cancer did not progress was almost 12 months, on average. What's more, eight of 11 people whose cancer had spread to their liver showed reductions in tumor size that lasted longer than six months. People whose kidney cancer spreads to the liver tend to do poorly.