Axitinib in Combination With Toripalimab, a Humanized Immunoglobulin G4 Monoclonal Antibody Against Programmed Cell Death-1, in Patients With Metastatic Mucosal Melanoma: An Open-Label Phase IB Trial


Metastatic mucosal melanoma responds poorly to anti-programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) monotherapy. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been shown to play an important immunosuppressive role in the tumor microenvironment. The combination of VEGF inhibition and PD-1 blockade provides therapeutic opportunities for patients refractory to either therapy alone.


We conducted a single-center, phase IB trial evaluating the safety and preliminary efficacy of toripalimab, a humanized immunoglobulin G4 monoclonal antibody against PD-1 in combination with the VEGF receptor inhibitor axitinib in patientswith advanced melanoma, including patients with chemotherapy-naïve mucosal melanomas (88%). Patients received toripalimab at 1 or 3 mg/kg via intravenous infusion every 2 weeks, in combination with axitinib 5 mg orally twice a day, in a dose-escalation and cohort-expansion study until confirmed disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or voluntary withdrawal. The primary objective was safety. Secondary objectives included efficacy, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, immunogenicity, and tumor tissue biomarkers.


Thirty-three patients were enrolled. No dose-limiting toxicities were observed. Ninety-seven percent of patients experienced treatment-related adverse events (TRAEs). The most common TRAEs were mild (grade 1 or 2) and included diarrhea, proteinuria, hand and foot syndrome, fatigue, AST or ALT elevation, hypertension, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, and rash. Grade 3 or greater TRAEs occurred in 39.4% of patients. By the cutoff date, among 29 patients with chemotherapy-naïve mucosal melanoma, 14 patients (48.3%; 95% CI, 29.4% to 67.5%) achieved objective response, and the median progression-free survival time was 7.5 months (95% CI, 3.7 months to not reached) per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) version 1.1.


The combination of toripalimab plus axitinib was tolerable and showed promising antitumor activity in patients with treatment-naïve metastatic mucosal melanoma. Patients enrolled in this study were all Asian, and this combination therapy must be validated in a randomized phase III trial that includes a non-Asian population before it can become a standard of care.