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FDA approves new immunotherapy combo for metastatic melanoma


The Food and Drug Administration has approved a combination nivolumab/relatlimab-rmbw immune checkpoint inhibitor (Opdualag) for unresectable or metastatic melanoma in adults and children 12 years or older, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

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Approval was based on the company’s RELATIVITY-047 trial, which found a median progression-free survival (PFS) of 10.1 months among 355 patients randomly assigned to the combination therapy compared with 4.6 months among 359 patients who received nivolumab alone (hazard ratio, 0.75; P = .0055).

In the combination therapy group, 18.9% of patients reported a grade 3/4 drug-related adverse event, compared with 9.7% in the nivolumab group; 14.6% of patients in the combination group had drug-related adverse events leading to discontinuation versus 6.7% of those receiving monotherapy, the company noted in a press release.

Relatlimab is the company’s third immune checkpoint inhibitor to reach the U.S. market, joining the PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab and the CTLA-4 blocker ipilimumab. Relatlimab targets LAG-3, a cell-surface receptor found on activated CD4+ T cells.

Nivolumab plus ipilimumab is currently the standard of care for previously untreated metastatic or inoperable melanoma. Both combinations produce similar PFS, but the incidence of grade 3/4 adverse events is higher with ipilimumab, according to a Jan. 6, 2022, editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, rash, pruritus, and diarrhea were the most common adverse reactions with combination nivolumab/relatlimab, occurring in 20% or more of RELATIVITY-047 trial participants.

Adrenal insufficiency, anemia, colitis, pneumonia, and myocardial infarction were the most frequent serious adverse reactions, but each occurred in less than 2% of patients. There were three fatal adverse events in the trial caused by hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, acute lung edema, and pneumonitis.

The approved dosage is 480 mg nivolumab and 160 mg relatlimab administered intravenously every 4 weeks.

A version of this article first appeared on

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