San Francisco, CA ( — EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in the US and Canada, and Pfizer Inc. announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) adopted a positive opinion recommending approval of BAVENCIO® (avelumab) in combination with axitinib for the first-line treatment of adult patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The opinion was based on positive findings from the Phase III JAVELIN Renal 101 study, which demonstrated a significant extension in median progression-free survival (PFS) and a clinically meaningful improvement in objective response rate (ORR) for the combination across all prognostic risk groups compared with sunitinib.1 The CHMP positive opinion will be reviewed by the European Commission (EC), with a decision anticipated in the fourth quarter of this year. EMD Serono and Pfizer have a global strategic alliance to jointly develop and commercialize BAVENCIO.

“Today’s positive CHMP opinion is a significant step toward potentially transforming the treatment landscape and bringing much needed options to people living with advanced renal cell carcinoma in Europe. We believe that the combination of BAVENCIO plus axitinib has the potential to help address a significant need for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma for first-line treatments with a benefit across all prognostic risk groups, and we look forward to a decision from the European Commission,” said Luciano Rossetti, Head of Global R&D for EMD Serono.

In 2018, an estimated 136,500 new cases of kidney cancer were diagnosed in Europe, and approximately 54,700 people died from the disease.2 RCC is the most common form of kidney cancer, accounting for about 3% of all cancers in adults.2 Approximately 20% to 30% of patients are first diagnosed with RCC at the advanced stage, and 30% of patients treated for an earlier stage go on to develop metastases.3,4 About half of patients living with advanced RCC do not go on to receive additional treatment after first-line therapy,5,6 for reasons that may include poor performance status or adverse events from their initial treatment.5,7,8 The five-year survival rate for patients with metastatic RCC is approximately 12%.9

“Kidney cancer represents a significant burden in Europe, where incidence rates are among the highest in the world,” said Chris Boshoff, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Development Officer, Oncology, Pfizer Global Product Development. “Pfizer has been a leader in the development of kidney cancer treatments for more than a decade, and it is a privilege to continue our efforts to bring a new treatment option to this community.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved BAVENCIO in combination with axitinib for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced RCC in May 2019.10 A supplemental application for BAVENCIO in combination with axitinib in unresectable or metastatic RCC was submitted in Japan in January 2019. 

– Opinion based on Phase III data showing combination lowered risk of disease progression or death by 31% and improved objective response rate compared with sunitinib1
– Decision by the European Commission anticipated in fourth quarter of 2019

1. Motzer R, et al. Avelumab plus Axitinib versus Sunitinib for Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2019;380:1103-1115.
2. Ferlay J, Colombet M, Soerjomataram I, et al. Cancer incidence and mortality patterns in Europe: Estimates for 40 countries and 25 major cancers in 2018. Eur J Cancer. 2018;103:356-387.
3. Ljungberg B, Campbell S, Cho H. The epidemiology of renal cell carcinoma. Eur Urol. 2011;60:615-621.
4. Klatte T, Rossi SH, Stewart GD. Prognostic factors and prognostic models for renal cell carcinoma: a literature review. World J Urol. 2018;36(12):1943-1952.
5. Eggers H, Ivanyi P, Hornig M, Grünwald V. Predictive factors for second-line therapy in metastatic renal cell carcinoma: a retrospective analysis. J Kidney Cancer VHL. 2017;4(1):8-15.
6. Motzer R, et al. Nivolumab plus Ipilimumab versus Sunitinib in Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2018;378:1277-1290.
7. Eichelberg C, Vervenne WL, De Santis M, et al. SWITCH: A randomised, sequential, open-label study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of sorafenib-sunitinib versus sunitinib-sorafenib in the treatment of metastatic renal cell cancer. Eur Urol. 2015;68;837-847.
8. Motzer RJ, Barrios CH, Kim TM, et al. Phase II randomized trial comparing sequential first-line everolimus and second-line sunitinib versus first-line sunitinib and second-line everolimus in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32:2765-2772.
9. Ridge C, Pua B, Madoff D. Epidemiology and staging of renal cell carcinoma. Semin Intervent Radiol. 2014;31(1):3-8.
10. BAVENCIO Prescribing Information. Rockland, MA: EMD Serono Inc.; 2019.

Further Related Content:
First-line Therapy Options for Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma – Tian Zhang
ASCO GU 2019: JAVELIN Renal 101: Outcomes for Avelumab + Axitinib vs Sunitinib in Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)