Nivolumab Plus Axitinib in Patients With Anti-PD1 Refractory Advanced Melanoma


Yana Najjar

Status and phase

Active, not recruiting
Phase 2


Advanced Melanoma
Unresectable Melanoma


Drug: Axitinib
Drug: Nivolumab

Study type


Funder types



HCC 20-101

Details and patient eligibility


This is Phase II trial of nivolumab plus axitinib for patients with unresectable stage III or IV melanoma who have progressed on prior anti-PD1 therapy with or without concomitant anti-CTLA4 therapy. Patients will receive treatment with nivolumab 480 mg intravenously every 4 weeks and axitinib 5 mg twice daily by mouth. Patients may continue both agents for up to two years if they do not experience disease progression or dose-limiting toxicities.

Full description

This trial hypothesizes that decreasing hypoxia in the TME will re-sensitize melanoma tumors to anti-PD1 therapy. Axitinib has already been safely combined with anti-PD1 therapy and was overall well-tolerated. With nivolumab plus axitinib taken together, based on previously published work and data from our laboratories, it is hypothesized that axitinib can metabolically remodel the TME to render it more sensitive to ICB, specifically by reducing intra-tumoral hypoxia, increasing T cell infiltration, and increasing polyfunctional T cells. It will determined if treatment with nivolumab plus axitinib will prolong both progression-free and overall survival.


31 patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Have unresectable (stage III) or advanced (stage IV) cutaneous or mucosal melanoma. Patients with uveal melanoma are not eligible.
  • Progressed on prior anti-PD1 therapy with or without anti-CTLA4 therapy. Patients may have progressed in the adjuvant setting if treated within the last 6 months. Prior treatment with BRAF/MEK inhibitors permitted, however, not required. Progression must be radiographic, and progression of disease will be confirmed by a radiologist. Patients must have progressed during anti-PD-1 therapy, defined as unequivocal progression on or within 3 months of the last dose of anti-PD-1 therapy if treated in the metastatic setting, or within 6 months if treated in the adjuvant setting.
  • Have measurable disease based on RECIST 1.1.
  • Patients do not have to have biopsiable disease to be eligible. However, patients with biopsiable disease must undergo biopsy at study entry and at week 12.
  • Have a performance status of 0 or 1 on the ECOG Performance Scale.
  • Demonstrate adequate organ function, per protocol
  • Patients with brain metastases are permitted if they are asymptomatic or previously treated with CNS directed therapy with stable CNS disease for at least 2 weeks. Stable is defined as asymptomatic or not progressing on imaging.
  • Female patients of childbearing potential - negative pregnancy testing; use of birth control, surgically sterile or abstain from heterosexual activity during study and for 5 months after the last dose of study medication.
  • Male subjects - agree to use an adequate contraception starting with the first dose of study therapy through 7 months after the last dose of study therapy; abstinence acceptable

Exclusion criteria

  • Prior history of Grade 3 or 4 immune-related adverse events or immune-related adverse events requiring discontinuation of prior therapies.
  • History of hypertensive crisis or hypertensive encephalopathy.
  • Significant thrombotic (e.g. deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) or hemorrhagic event within 6 months prior to enrollment.
  • History of prior immune-related adverse event due to an anti-PD1 or anti-CTLA4 that has not resolved to grade 1 on a steroid dose of prednisone 10 mg or less at the time of study entry (excluding vitiligo and endocrine toxicity).
  • Patients with prior myocarditis or other immune-mediated cardiac adverse events, prior Guillain-Barre syndrome, encephalitis, meningitis, or transverse myelitis, prior Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis are excluded regardless of grade.
  • Poorly controlled hypertension defined as systolic blood pressure (SBP) > 160 and/or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) > 100 despite antihypertensives. If subject is above this goal, treatment with anti-hypertensives to achieve better blood pressure control is permitted. Ambulatory blood pressure assessment is permitted if there is concern for discrepant blood pressure readings while patients are in clinic.
  • Has Class III or IV heart failure based on the New York Heart Association.
  • Has had major surgery within 4 weeks of randomization. This does not include outpatient surgeries that do not require post-operative admission.
  • Has a diagnosis of immunodeficiency or is receiving systemic steroid therapy (greater than the equivalent of prednisone 10 mg daily, unless for prior endocrine toxicity) or any other form of immunosuppressive therapy within 7 days prior to the first dose of trial treatment (premedication with steroids for contrast imaging studies is permitted).
  • Has a known history of active TB (Bacillus Tuberculosis).
  • Hypersensitivity to nivolumab or axitinib, or any of their excipients.
  • Has had prior chemotherapy or targeted small molecule therapy within 1 week prior to study Day 1 or who has not recovered (i.e., ≤ Grade 1 or at baseline) from adverse events due to a previously administered agent.
  • Has had radiation within 2 weeks of randomization.
  • Has current use or anticipated need for treatment with drugs or foods that are known strong cytochrome P450 (CYP34A4/5) inhibitors including but not limited to atazanavir, clarithromycin, indinavir, itraconazole, ketoconazole, nefazodone, nelfinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir, telithromycin, troleandomycin, voriconazole, and grapefruit or grapefruit juice. NOTE: The topical use of these medications, such as 2% ketoconazole cream is allowed.
  • Has current use or anticipated need for treatment with drugs known to be strong CYP3A4/5 inducers, including but not limited to carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, rifabutin, rifampin, and St. John's wort.
  • Has a known additional malignancy that is progressing or requires active treatment. Exceptions include basal cell carcinoma of the skin or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin that has undergone potentially curative therapy, in situ cervical cancer, in situ colon cancer, or nonmetastatic prostate cancer not on systemic therapy.
  • Has known active central nervous system (CNS) metastases and/or carcinomatous meningitis. Subjects with previously treated brain metastases may participate provided they are stable (without evidence of progression by imaging for at least 2 weeks prior to the first dose of trial treatment and any neurologic symptoms have returned to baseline), have no evidence of new or enlarging brain metastases, and are not using steroids for at least 7 days prior to trial treatment. This exception does not include carcinomatous meningitis which is excluded regardless of clinical stability.
  • Has active autoimmune disease that has required systemic treatment in the past 2 years (i.e. with use of disease modifying agents, corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs). Replacement therapy (e.g., thyroxine or physiologic corticosteroid replacement therapy for adrenal or pituitary insufficiency, etc.) is not considered a form of systemic treatment.
  • Has a history of (non-infectious) pneumonitis that required steroids or current pneumonitis.
  • Has an active infection requiring systemic IV antibiotic therapy.
  • Has had any of the following within the past 6 months
  • Myocardial infarction or unstable angina
  • Ventricular arrythmia
  • Acute decompensated heart failure
  • Cerebrovascular accident
  • Hypertensive emergency requiring ICU admission
  • Presence of a disorder that may impact absorption of axitinib, such as inability to take oral medication, requirement for IV alimentation, prior gastric resection, treatment for active peptic ulcer confirmed by endoscopy within the past 3 months, active GI bleed, malabsorption syndrome.
  • Has a history or current evidence of any condition, therapy, or laboratory abnormality that might confound the results of the trial, interfere with the subject's participation for the full duration of the trial, or is not in the best interest of the subject to participate, in the opinion of the treating investigator.
  • Has known psychiatric or substance abuse disorders that would interfere with cooperation with the requirements of the trial.
  • Is pregnant or breastfeeding or expecting to conceive or father children within the projected duration of the trial, starting with the pre-screening or screening visit through 5 months after the last dose of trial treatment for females and 7 months after the last dose of trial treatment for males.
  • Has a known history of HIV (HIV 1/2 antibodies) if the CD4 count is less than 350 mm3 or serum HIV viral load is < 25,000 IU/mL.
  • Has a known history of or is positive for hepatitis B (hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg] reactive) or hepatitis C (hepatitis C virus [HCV] RNA [qualitative] is detected). Note: Without known history, testing only needs to be performed if there is clinical suspicion for Hepatitis B or C.
  • Is currently incarcerated or otherwise detained.
  • Has received a live vaccine within 30 days of planned start of study therapy. (intranasal iNinfluenza vaccines (e.g., Flu-Mist®) are live attenuated vaccines, and are not allowed)

Note: Subjects with ≤ Grade 2 neuropathy are an exception to this criterion and may qualify for the study.

Note: If subject received major surgery, they must have recovered adequately from the toxicity and/or complications from the intervention prior to starting therapy.

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Single Group Assignment


None (Open label)

31 participants in 1 patient group

Nivolumab plus Axitinib
Experimental group
Nivolumab 480mg, IV, every 4 weeks, for up to two years. Axitinib 5mg, PO, BID, for up to two years.
Drug: Axitinib
Drug: Nivolumab

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Amy Rose, RN

Data sourced from

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