New research published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, supports the use of immune checkpoint blockers as standard therapies in advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

A variety of studies have demonstrated that drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors can reinforce and boost the immune system’s response against different cancers, and now, a phase 2 clinical trial has provided evidence that patients with the severe form of skin cancer can benefit from the immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab.

In recent years, cemiplimab and pembrolizumab – two other immune checkpoint inhibitors – have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, but this new study offers the first clinical trial results for nivolumab.

The single-arm trial included 24 patients who received nivolumab at 3mg/kg every two weeks until they experienced cancer progression, developed unacceptable toxicity, or had received 12 months of treatment.

During the trial, 14 patients benefited from the treatment, with their cancers showing a response, while treatment-related adverse events of any grade and grade =3 occurred in 21 and six patients, respectively, and one patient discontinued nivolumab due to toxicities. Prior exposure to radiotherapy was associated with a worse response.