Nivolumab plus Cabozantinib versus Sunitinib for Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma

CheckMate 9ER Investigators

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944 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND The efficacy and safety of nivolumab plus cabozantinib as compared with those of sunitinib in the treatment of previously untreated advanced renal-cell carcinoma are not known. METHODS In this phase 3, randomized, open-label trial, we randomly assigned adults with previously untreated clear-cell, advanced renal-cell carcinoma to receive either nivolumab (240 mg every 2 weeks) plus cabozantinib (40 mg once daily) or sunitinib (50 mg once daily for 4 weeks of each 6-week cycle). The primary end point was progression-free survival, as determined by blinded independent central review. Secondary end points included overall survival, objective response as determined by independent review, and safety. Health-related quality of life was an exploratory end point. RESULTS Overall, 651 patients were assigned to receive nivolumab plus cabozantinib (323 patients) or sunitinib (328 patients). At a median follow-up of 18.1 months for overall survival, the median progression-free survival was 16.6 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 12.5 to 24.9) with nivolumab plus cabozantinib and 8.3 months (95% CI, 7.0 to 9.7) with sunitinib (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.41 to 0.64; P<0.001). The probability of overall survival at 12 months was 85.7% (95% CI, 81.3 to 89.1) with nivolumab plus cabozantinib and 75.6% (95% CI, 70.5 to 80.0) with sunitinib (hazard ratio for death, 0.60; 98.89% CI, 0.40 to 0.89; P = 0.001). An objective response occurred in 55.7% of the patients receiving nivolumab plus cabozantinib and in 27.1% of those receiving sunitinib (P<0.001). Efficacy benefits with nivolumab plus cabozantinib were consistent across subgroups. Adverse events of any cause of grade 3 or higher occurred in 75.3% of the 320 patients receiving nivolumab plus cabozantinib and in 70.6% of the 320 patients receiving sunitinib. Overall, 19.7% of the patients in the combination group discontinued at least one of the trial drugs owing to adverse events, and 5.6% discontinued both. Patients reported better health-related quality of life with nivolumab plus cabozantinib than with sunitinib. CONCLUSIONS Nivolumab plus cabozantinib had significant benefits over sunitinib with respect to progression-free survival, overall survival, and likelihood of response in patients with previously untreated advanced renal-cell carcinoma. (Funded by Bristol Myers Squibb and others; CheckMate 9ER number, NCT03141177.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-841
Number of pages13
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by Bristol Myers Squibb in collaboration with Ono Pharmaceutical and with Exelixis, Ipsen Pharma, and Takeda Pharmaceutical. The authors received no financial support or compensation for publication of this manuscript. Dr. Choueiri is supported in part by the Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Kidney Specialized Program of Research Excellence, the Kohl-berg Chair at Harvard Medical School, the Trust Family, Michael Brigham, and Loker Pinard Funds for Kidney Cancer Research at Dana–Farber Cancer Institute and by various grants from the National Cancer Institute, Department of Defense, and foundations. Patients treated at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center were supported in part by a Cancer Center Support Grant–Core Grant (P30 CA008748). The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is supported by a National Institutes of Health Core Grant (P30 CA016672).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Massachusetts Medical Society.


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anilides/administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents/adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols/adverse effects
  • B7-H1 Antigen/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell/drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Kidney Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nivolumab/administration & dosage
  • Progression-Free Survival
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Pyridines/administration & dosage
  • Quality of Life
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Sunitinib/adverse effects
  • Survival Analysis


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