A phase II study of bemcentinib with pembrolizumab in patients with advanced NSCLC

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Published: 11 Jun 2019
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Dr Enriqueta Felip - Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), Barcelona, Spain

Dr Enriqueta Felip speaks to ecancer at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting about the preliminary results from a phase II study examining the combination of bemcentinib and pembrolizumab in patients with advanced NSCLC.

She reveals that a 35 percent response rate was achieved in those patients with AXL-positive tumours. For patients with PD-L1 negative tumours, a response rate of 20 percent was seen.

Dr Felip also discusses the main adverse events associated with this combination, which included grade 3 liver toxicity - but improved with the use of steroids.

For the future, Dr Felip mentions that this particular combination may have a role specifically for patients who have been selected by AXL.


We present here the results of a phase II trial in patients with a non-squamous histology and patients with adenocarcinoma of the lung stage 4 previously treated with platinum based chemotherapy, no IO. We treat these patients with a combination of pembrolizumab plus an AXL inhibitor. AXL is a tyrosine kinase receptor and we have presented here the results of this combination in this group of patients previously treated with chemotherapy.

Presently there are 46 patients included, we have 35 patients evaluable for response and we have determined PD-L1 and also AXL. We have seen a response rate around 25% but for those patients with AXL positive tumours the response rate is around 35%. It’s true that these are preliminary analyses but are really promising in this group of patients. On the other hand, in the group of patients with PD-L1 negative tumours the response rate is around 20%. So this is the data that we will present here.

This is a situation in second line in which immunotherapy is a standard of care but we have to increase, to improve, the results of immunotherapy when we use it as monotherapy. So probably in the future this combination may have a role in those patients selected by AXL. But it’s true that this is preliminary, we have to work on that. But this will be the hypothesis to work in the near future.

Were there any adverse events?

Yes, this drug, this combination, was associated with grade 3 liver toxicity in approximately 8-10% of the patients but in all the cases the toxicity was improved with the use of steroids.

I understand patients were previously treated in this study, is there any potential to create this therapy as a first line therapy?

The patients included in the trial were previously treated with platinum based chemotherapy, not with immunotherapy. It’s true that now we have some studies showing that in first line chemo and immunotherapy may well be the standard of care but in the case of the study presented here all the patients were treated with one line of prior chemotherapy without immunotherapy.