Nivolumab plus ipilimumab in advanced salivary gland cancer: a phase 2 trial

Document Type


Publication Date




Journal Title

Nature medicine


Salivary gland cancers (SGCs) are rare, aggressive cancers without effective treatments when metastasized. We conducted a phase 2 trial evaluating nivolumab (nivo, anti-PD-1) and ipilimumab (ipi, anti-CTLA-4) in 64 patients with metastatic SGC enrolled in two histology-based cohorts (32 patients each): adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC; cohort 1) and other SGCs (cohort 2). The primary efficacy endpoint (≥4 objective responses) was met in cohort 2 (5/32, 16%) but not in cohort 1 (2/32, 6%). Treatment safety/tolerability and progression-free survival (PFS) were secondary endpoints. Treatment-related adverse events grade ≥3 occurred in 24 of 64 (38%) patients across both cohorts, and median PFS was 4.4 months (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.4, 8.3) and 2.2 months (95% CI: 1.8, 5.3) for cohorts 1 and 2, respectively. We present whole-exome, RNA and T cell receptor (TCR) sequencing data from pre-treatment and on-treatment tumors and immune cell flow cytometry and TCR sequencing from peripheral blood at serial timepoints. Responding tumors universally demonstrated clonal expansion of pre-existing T cells and mutational contraction. Responding ACCs harbored neoantigens, including fusion-derived neoepitopes, that induced T cell responses ex vivo. This study shows that nivo+ipi has limited efficacy in ACC, albeit with infrequent, exceptional responses, and that it could be promising for non-ACC SGCs, particularly salivary duct carcinomas. identifier: NCT03172624 .