From the Journals

Urothelial cancer: Less gained from immunotherapy in patients with poor performance scores



Patients with advanced urothelial cancer and a poor performance status may have little to gain from immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy, suggests a multicenter real-world retrospective cohort study.

“The perceived favorable toxicity profile of immune checkpoint inhibitors has led to the selection of these agents for patients otherwise unfit for systemic chemotherapy,” noted the investigators, led by Ali Raza Khaki, MD, a fellow in the division of oncology, department of medicine, University of Washington, Seattle. “However, there is a paucity of data supporting the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors in patients with a poor performance status, who were not very well represented in the clinical trials that led to their approval, with no trial enrolling patients with an ECOG [Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group] performance status greater than or equal to 3 and only 3 trials including patients with an ECOG performance status of 2.”

Dr. Khaki and coinvestigators analyzed data from 499 patients with advanced urothelial cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors at 18 institutions during 2013-2019. Slightly more than one-quarter had an ECOG performance status of 2 or higher.

Study results, reported in Cancer, showed that the overall response rate to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy was similar regardless of performance status, across patients being treated in different lines of therapy.

However, among patients being treated in the first line, overall survival was better for those with a performance status of 0 to 1 than for those with a performance status of 2 or higher (median, 15.2 vs. 7.2 months; hazard ratio for death, 0.62; P = .01). There was no significant difference in this outcome among patients being treated in subsequent lines (median, 9.8 vs. 8.2 months; hazard ratio, 0.78; P = .27).

Among the 288 patients who died, 10% started immune checkpoint inhibitors in the last 30 days of life and 33% started them in the last 90 days of life. Patients initiating this therapy in the last 30 days of life were almost three time more likely to die in a hospital (odds ratio, 2.89; P = .04).


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