Neoadjuvant and Adjuvant GVAX Plus Nivolumab and Urelemab May Increase Immune Response in Patients With Resectable Pancreatic Cancer

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A combination of the pancreatic cancer vaccine GVAX, the immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab, and the anti-CD137 agonist antibody urelemab may be safe and increase the amount of immune T cells in the tumors of patients with operable pancreatic cancer when given 2 weeks prior to surgical tumor resection, according to a novel study published by Heumann et al in Nature Communications.


Researchers explained that when treatment is administered during the 2-week window prior to surgical resection, immunotherapy can help prepare the patients’ immune cells to respond to the tumors so they can continue surveillance if the cancer recurs. Additionally, the treatment could help researchers analyze how well the tumors respond to therapy by evaluating those that were resected.

Study Methods and Results

In the new study, the researchers compared the outcomes of 10 patients who received the combination of GVAX , nivolumab, and urelemab with those in the previous arms of the study who received either GVAX alone or in combination with nivolumab. The researchers discovered that the median disease-free survival for patients who received the three-agent treatment was 33.5 months and an overall survival of 35.5 months. The results of the study involving patients who received GVAX alone or with nivolumab were found to be of no statistical significance because of the small number of participants.

Further, the researchers noted that patients involved in the recent arm of the study also had a higher number of cancer-killing immune T cells in their tumors than patients who received only GVAX alone or plus nivolumab.


Studying the impacts of neoadjuvant and adjuvant immunotherapy treatments has enabled the researchers to use the data generated by the trial to advance the development of immunotherapies for pancreatic cancer.

The researchers suggested that a larger clinical trial may be needed to better understand the benefits of the combination therapy. A fourth arm of the trial examining the efficacy of anti–interleukin-8 neutrophil-blocking antibodies in patients with pancreatic tumors is ongoing.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.