ZEBRA: A multicenter phase II study of pembrolizumab in patients with advanced small-bowel adenocarcinoma

Katrina S. Pedersen, Nathan R. Foster, Michael J. Overman, Patrick M. Boland, Sunnie S. Kim, Kathryn A. Arrambide, Brandy L. Jaszewski, Tanios Bekaii-Saab, Rondell P. Graham, Jack Welch, Richard H. Wilson, Robert R. McWilliams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Small-bowel adenocarcinoma (SBA) is rare, and no standard of care exists for metastatic disease beyond first-line FOLFOX/CAPOX. SBA has higher rates of microsatellite instability (MSI-H) and T-lymphocyte infiltration than other gastrointestinal cancers. We hypothesize that pembrolizumab, a PD-1 inhibitor, will induce antitumor response. Patients and Methods: Patients with previously treated advanced SBA received pembrolizumab 200 mg i.v. every 3 weeks until disease progression (PD), toxicity, or 35 doses maximum. Primary endpoint was confirmed overall response rate (ORR) with secondary progression-free survival (PFS), overall survival (OS), and toxicity assessment endpoints. Outcomes were stratified by tumor location, microsatellite stability (MSS) or instability (MSI-H), and PD-L1 level. Results: Forty patients were treated for a median duration of four cycles (range, 1–35). All patients are off study treatment due to PD (75%), death (10%), 35 cycles completed (8%), refusal (3%), and adverse effects (AEs, 5%). Three confirmed partial responses [PRs; 8%; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2–20] did not meet predefined success criteria of ORR 30%. Median OS (7.1 months; 95% CI, 5.1–17.1) and median PFS (2.8 months; 95% CI, 2.7–4.2) were similar across primary tumor sites. One confirmed PR (3%) was seen in patients with low MSS/MSI tumors and correlated with high tumor mutation burden (TMB). Fifty percent of patients with MSI-H tumors achieved PR and remain alive without progression. Twenty-five patients (63%) had grade ≥3 AEs and 11 patients (28%) had grade 4/5 AEs. Conclusions: In the largest study of SBA to date, pembrolizumab did not induce the hypothesized response rate; however, we did identify responses in key biomarker-selected cohorts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3641-3648
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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