Comparative Efficacy of Second- and Subsequent-line Treatments for Metastatic NSCLC: A Fractional Polynomials Network Meta-analysis of Cancer Immunotherapies

Christian Schulz, David R Gandara, Carmen G. Berardo, Rachel Rosenthal, Jason Foo, Chaienna Morel, Marcus Ballinger, Claire Watkins, Paula Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Extended onset of treatment effect and longer-term survival with anti–programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1)/programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) immunotherapies, atezolizumab, nivolumab, and pembrolizumab, have changed the landscape of second- or subsequent-line (2L+) treatments for adults with non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This systematic literature review included phase I to IV randomized, controlled trials of 2L+ NSCLC therapies from MEDLINE, Embase, and secondary sources. Materials and Methods: Studies of treatments approved in the European Union or United States had to be in English with ≥ 10 patients per arm. A fractional polynomials network meta-analysis (NMA) was conducted because traditional NMA of hazard ratios does not account for delayed onset of clinical effect or long-term survival observed in PD-L1/PD-1 inhibitor trials. Adjusted analyses accounted for treatment switching in the atezolizumab OAK trial. Expected survival time reflected area under the curve over the time horizon. Expected overall survival (OS) was ranked by median ranking with 95% credible intervals and by surface under the cumulative ranking curve. Of 25,115 screened records, 28 studies were included in the quantitative analyses of OS and progression-free survival. Results: PD-L1/PD-1 inhibitors had comparable expected 5-year OS; all performed better than other treatment options. In unadjusted analyses, surface under the cumulative ranking curve ranked nivolumab first (87.9%), followed by atezolizumab (85.8%) and pembrolizumab (82.8%). Analyses adjusted for patients switching from docetaxel to immunotherapy ranked atezolizumab first (89.6%), followed by nivolumab (86.5%) and pembrolizumab (81.9%). Conclusion: This NMA applied an appropriate approach for indirect comparisons, including cancer immunotherapies, and supported robustness of PD-L1/PD-1 immunotherapies for 2L+ treatment of NSCLC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClinical lung cancer
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • Atezolizumab
  • Nivolumab
  • Overall survival
  • Pembrolizumab
  • Programmed cell death 1 ligand 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cancer Research


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