Outcomes on anti-VEGFR-2/paclitaxel treatment after progression on immune checkpoint inhibition in patients with metastatic gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma

Lionel A. Kankeu Fonkoua, Sakti Chakrabarti, Mohamad B. Sonbol, Pashtoon M. Kasi, Jason S. Starr, Alex J. Liu, Wendy K. Nevala, Rachel L. Maus, Melanie C. Bois, Henry C. Pitot, Chandrikha Chandrasekharan, Helen J. Ross, Tsung Teh Wu, Rondell P. Graham, Jose C. Villasboas, Matthias Weiss, Nathan R. Foster, Svetomir N. Markovic, Haidong Dong, Harry H. Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Through our involvement in KEYNOTE-059, we unexpectedly observed durable responses in two patients with metastatic gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma (mGEA) who received ramucirumab (anti-VEGFR-2)/paclitaxel after immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI). To assess the reproducibility of this observation, we piloted an approach to administer ramucirumab/paclitaxel after ICI in more patients, and explored changes in the immune microenvironment. Nineteen consecutive patients with mGEA received ICI followed by ramucirumab/paclitaxel. Most (95%) did not respond to ICI, yet after irRECIST-defined progression on ICI, all patients experienced tumor size reduction on ramucirumab/paclitaxel. The objective response rate (ORR) and progression-free survival (PFS) on ramucirumab/paclitaxel after ICI were higher than on the last chemotherapy before ICI in the same group of patients (ORR, 58.8% vs 11.8%; PFS 12.2 vs 3.0 months; respectively). Paired tumor biopsies examined by imaging mass cytometry showed a median 5.5-fold (range 4-121) lower frequency of immunosuppressive forkhead box P3+ regulatory T cells with relatively preserved CD8+ T cells, post-treatment versus pre-treatment (n = 5 pairs). We then compared the outcomes of these 19 patients with a separate group who received ramucirumab/paclitaxel without preceding ICI (n = 68). Median overall survival on ramucirumab/paclitaxel was longer with (vs without) immediately preceding ICI (14.8 vs 7.4 months) including after multivariate analysis, as was PFS. In our small clinical series, outcomes appeared improved on anti-VEGFR-2/paclitaxel treatment when preceded by ICI, in association with alterations in the immune microenvironment. However, further investigation is needed to determine the generalizability of these data. Prospective clinical trials to evaluate sequential treatment with ICI followed by anti-VEGF(R)/taxane are underway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-386
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2021


  • anti-VEGFR2
  • gastric/gastroesophageal cancers
  • immune checkpoint inhibition
  • paclitaxel
  • tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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