Indirect comparison between pembrolizumab and nivolumab for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

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The purpose of this study is to evaluate the efficacy and adverse effects of nivolumab and pembrolizumab for the treatment of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) by meta-analysis.

Materials and methods:

This meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was performed after searching PubMed, EMBASE, and American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting abstracts, clinicaltrial gov, and Cochrane library databases. Two reviewers independently assessed the quality of the trials. Outcomes analysis was overall response rates (ORR), overall survival (OS), progression- free survival (PFS) and major adverse effects with odds ratio (OR) or hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).


Results reported from three RCTs involving 1,887 patients are included in this analysis. Indirect comparison between pembrolizumab and nivolumab in advanced NSCLC shows no statistically significant difference in ORR (OR: 1.14, 95% CI, 0.60–2.01), OS (HR: 0.98, 95% CI, 0.35–2.74) and PFS (HR: 1.12, 95% CI, 0.70–1.77). The incidence of grades ≥ 3 adverse effects is higher with pembrolizumab as compared with nivolumab (OR: 3.44, 95% CI, 1.87–6.32). There are no significant statistical differences between severe adverse effects, such as pneumonitis and hypothyroidism, of the two drugs.


This study has demonstrated that pembrolizumab and nivolumab have similar survival outcomes in patients with advanced NSCLC, but pembrolizumab has a higher incidence of grades ≥ 3 adverse effects than nivolumab.

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