Immunotherapy Plus Chemo Improves Quality of Life in NSCLC

Adding the immunotherapy cemiplimab to chemotherapy for patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) not only improved overall survival but also led to quality-of-life benefits, new data show.

In the trial, patients who received the PD-1 inhibitor plus platinum-doublet chemotherapy in the first-line setting reported significant improvements in pain symptoms and delay in time to deterioration, as well as improvements in disease-related symptoms, such as dyspnea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.

Overall, “the findings support the concept that the superior efficacy and favorable safety profile of cemiplimab plus chemotherapy translate to better patient-reported outcomes compared with chemotherapy alone in patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer, ” corresponding author Tamta Makharadze, MD, of LTD High Technology Hospital Med Center in Batumi, Georgia, said in a press release.

The delays reported in time to definitive clinically meaningful deterioration “are particularly pertinent, given the anticipated continued improvements in cancer survivorship among patients with advanced NSCLC,” the authors explain.

The research was published online May 8 in Cancer.

Quality of life is especially important for patients with advanced NSCLC, for whom the benefits of improved survival must be weighed against the potential drawbacks of treatment toxicities, which can severely impact quality of life, the authors explain.

In the initial multinational phase 3 EMPOWER-Lung 3 trial, Makharadze and colleagues randomly assigned 466 patients with stage IIIB, IIIC, or stage IV NSCLC to receive either 350 mg of cemiplimab (Libtayo, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc) every 3 weeks along with investigator’s choice of platinum‐doublet chemotherapy or placebo plus chemotherapy. Investigator’s choice of chemotherapy was either paclitaxel plus carboplatin or cisplatin, pemetrexed plus carboplatin, or cisplatin.

The researchers found that the addition of cemiplimab to chemotherapy was associated with a significant, almost 9-month improvement in overall survival. While the trial also highlighted significant improvements in quality of life, functioning, and most symptoms with cemiplimab in comparison with placebo, the current study provides more details on these patient-reported quality-of-life outcomes.

In the latest analysis, Makharadze and colleagues evaluated data on the 312 patients in the cemiplimab arm and the 154 in the placebo arm. The median age of the patients was 63 years, and most (83.9%) were men.

Patients in the cemiplimab arm reported significant improvements in pain symptoms from baseline, as measured with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Quality of Life–Core 30 (QLQ‐C30) score (−4.98; P = .004).

Patients who were treated with cemiplimab also reported a significant delay in time to definitive clinically meaningful deterioration (hazard ratio [HR], 0.39; P < .0001).

Significant delays in the time to deterioration in other functioning and symptom scales favored the cemiplimab group, including dyspnea (HR, 0.54), nausea/vomiting (HR, 0.39), and constipation (HR, 0.48).

The cemiplimab group also reported significantly delayed time to deterioration in physical (HR, 0.62) and emotional functioning (HR, 0.52) compared with the placebo arm as well as significant overall improvements from baseline in global health status/quality of life scores.

No significant improvements in patient-reported outcomes favoring the placebo group were observed on any quality-of-life metric evaluated using the symptom scales.

As for study limitations, the authors explain that although about 86% of patients in both arms completed at least one question at baseline and post baseline, “the results may have overrepresented the patients who did well in both treatment arms because patients who progressed no longer completed the questionnaires.”

Nevertheless, the results “show that the favorable efficacy achieved with cemiplimab plus chemotherapy over placebo plus chemotherapy is accompanied by significant overall improvement in pain and significant delay in [time to definitive clinically meaningful deterioration] in multiple patient‐reported cancer‐related and lung cancer–specific functions and symptoms,” the authors conclude.

The study was sponsored by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc, and Sanofi.

Cancer. Published May 8, 2023. Abstract

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