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J Clin Oncol. 2019 Feb 20;37(6):481-489. doi: 10.1200/JCO.18.00766. Epub 2019 Jan 8.

Nivolumab for Relapsed/Refractory Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma in Patients Ineligible for or Having Failed Autologous Transplantation: A Single-Arm, Phase II Study.

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1 Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
2 University Medical Center Utrecht Cancer Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands, on behalf of the Lunenburg Lymphoma Phase I/II Consortium-HOVON/LLPC.
3 University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom.
4 University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA.
5 Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA.
6 Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA.
7 Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
8 Emory University, Atlanta, GA.
9 Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
10 National University Cancer Institute, Singapore, Singapore.
11 Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ.
12 Austin Hospital and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.



Treatment options are limited for patients with relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Tumor cells can exploit the programmed death-1 checkpoint pathway to evade immune surveillance. In the current study, we evaluated the efficacy and safety of programmed death-1 blockade by nivolumab in patients with relapsed/refractory DLBCL.


In this phase II, open-label study, patients with relapsed/refractory DLBCL who were ineligible for autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (auto-HCT) or who had experienced failure with auto-HCT received nivolumab 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks. We assessed the efficacy and safety of nivolumab as well as genetic alterations of 9p24.1.


Among 121 treated patients, patients in the auto-HCT-failed cohort (n = 87) received a median of four nivolumab doses and a median of three doses were administered to those in the auto-HCT-ineligible cohort (n = 34). At a median follow-up of 9 months in the auto-HCT-failed cohort and 6 months in the auto-HCT-ineligible cohort, independently assessed objective response rates were 10% and 3%, and median durations of response were 11 and 8 months, respectively. Median progression-free survival and overall survival were 1.9 and 12.2 months in the auto-HCT-failed cohort and 1.4 and 5.8 months in the auto-HCT-ineligible cohort respectively. All three patients with complete remission-3% of the auto-HCT-failed cohort-had durable response (11 or more, 14 or more, and 17 months). Treatment-related grade 3 and 4 adverse events were reported in 24% of patients. The most common were neutropenia (4%), thrombocytopenia (3%), and increased lipase (3%). Of all evaluable samples for 9p24.1 analysis, 16% exhibited low-level copy gain and 3% had amplification.


Nivolumab monotherapy is associated with a favorable safety profile but a low overall response rate among patients with DLBCL who are ineligible for auto-HCT or who experienced failure with auto-HCT. Genetic alterations of 9p24.1 are infrequent in DLBCL.


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