Avelumab (Bavencio)

How is this drug name pronounced?

Avelumab:a-VEL-yoo-mab

Bavencio: buh-VEN-see-oh


What cancer(s) does this drug treat?

Bavencio is approved for:

Advanced Merkel cell carcinoma

Adult and pediatric patients 12 years and older with Merkel cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) that is metastatic (cancer has spread to other parts of the body from the original cancer site).

Advanced bladder and urinary tract (urothelial cell) cancer

Patients with advanced urothelial carcinoma (the most common type of bladder and urinary tract cancer) that has grown or spread who have been treated with chemotherapy containing platinum, but it did not work or stopped working.

Advanced kidney cancer

Patients with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) that has spread or cannot be removed by surgery. In such cases, Bavencio may be used in combination with Inlyta (axitinib)as a first treatment.

Limitations of use:

Age: The safety and efficacy of Bavencio in patients under 12 years of age with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma have not been established. The safety and efficacy of Bavencio in patients under 18 years of age with all other cancer types approved for treatment with Bavencio have not been established.
Pregnancy/Breastfeeding: Bavencio can cause harm to a fetus and is not recommended for use during pregnancy. The risks associated with Bavencio during breastfeeding are not known and cannot be ruled out; due to the potential for serious adverse reactions in the breastfed child, women are advised not to breastfeed during treatment and for at least one month after the last dose of Bavencio.


What type of immunotherapy is this?

Checkpoint blockade

  • PD-L1 blockade

How does this drug work?

  • Target: PD-L1

Bavencio is an antibody that attaches to a molecule called PD-L1, which is sometimes present on the surface of cancer cells or other cells within the tumor mass. PD-L1 interacts with a molecule called PD-1, which is present on the surface of T cells – the primary immune cells involved in killing cancer cells. In healthy tissues, the interaction between PD-L1 and PD-1 puts on a brake that keeps T cells from creating an immune reaction that gets out of control. However, cancers can hijack this safety mechanism and prevent T cells from doing their job – killing the cancer cells. When PD-L1 interacts with PD-1 on T cells, the T cells become inactive and do not attack the cancer cells. Bavencio binds to the PD-L1 molecules on cancer cells and other cells within the tumor mass in such a way that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1 and allows the T cells to be active and attack the cancer cells.

There may be other ways by which Bavencio helps destroy the cancer, and they are currently under investigation.

Detailed illustration on how Bavencio works


How is this drug given to the patient?

Prior to receiving each of the first four infusions of Bavencio (and prior to receiving subsequent infusions, if needed), patients receive acetaminophen and an antihistamine to reduce the chance of reactions to the infusion. Bavencio is administered via a tube into a vein (intravenous infusion, or I.V.) over 60 minutes. This occurs every two weeks and does not require a hospital stay.

Illustration of how Bavencio is administered


What are the observed clinical results?

It is important to keep in mind that each patient’s actual outcome is individual and may be different from the results found in the clinical studies. In addition, with immunotherapy, sometimes it takes several months for responses to be observed.

Advanced Merkel cell carcinoma

In a clinical trial of patients with Merkel cell carcinoma that had spread and did not respond to or stopped responding to chemotherapy, at a minimum follow-up of 36 months, 33% of patients treated with Bavencio responded to treatment, including 11% whose tumors disappeared completely and 22% whose tumors shrank. Among the patients who responded to Bavencio, 93% continued to respond for 6 months or longer, and 52% continued to respond for 36 months or longer. The median duration of response was 40 months.

Advanced bladder and urinary tract (urothelial cell) cancer

In a clinical trial of patients with advanced urothelial carcinoma that had grown or spread and who had been treated with chemotherapy containing platinum, and it did not work or stopped working, at a minimum follow-up for 6 months, 16% of patients treated with Bavencio responded to treatment, including 6% whose tumors disappeared completely and 11% whose tumors shrank. Among the patients who responded to Bavencio, 85% continued to respond for 6 months or longer, and 15% continued to respond for 12 months or longer. Responses lasted from 1 month to more than 17 months.

Advanced kidney cancer

In a clinical trial of patients with previously untreated renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) that had spread, patients were treated with either Bavencio + Inlyta (axitinib) or with Sutent (sunitinib). Among the patients treated with Bavencio + Inlyta, 53% responded to treatment, including 4% whose tumors disappeared completely and 49% whose tumors shrank. In comparison, 27% of patients treated with Sutent responded to treatment, including 2% whose tumors disappeared completely and 25% whose tumors shrank. Patients treated with Bavencio + Inlyta experienced no disease worsening for a median of 13 months, while patients treated with Sutent experienced no disease worsening for a median of 8 months.


What are the side effects?

The most common side effects of Bavencio include fatigue, pain (in the muscles, bones, head, stomach area, and back), diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss, redness, rash, chills, fever, urinary tract infection, high blood pressure, swelling in the hands, feet, or ankles, inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, difficulty speaking, cough, and low red blood cell count.

Bavencio can cause the patient’s T cells to attack healthy cells throughout the body. Because of this, Bavencio can cause side effects that can become serious or life-threatening, and may lead to death. Some of the serious side effects related to Bavencio include inflammation of the lungs, liver, kidneys (which can lead to kidney failure), or colon (which can result in tears or holes in the intestine). Additionally, problems can arise with the heart and hormone glands (including thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, as well as the pancreas). Skin rash and reactions related to the infusion may also occur. Patients should report any symptoms to their healthcare provider, who can then initiate actions to limit or reverse the side effects.

For a more complete list of possible side effects, see the full prescribing information.


Additional information

Manufacturer

EMD Serono (marketed by EMD Serono and Pfizer)

Approval

FDA and EMA


Understanding Cancer Immunotherapy Research

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