Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

The Medical Journal of Australia




School of Medical and Health Sciences




National Health and Medical Research Council / Sanofi Managed Access Program / Open access publishing facilitated by The University of Melbourne, as part of the Wiley - The University of Melbourne agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians

Grant Number

NHMRC Number : APP1175929


McLean, L. S., Lim, A. M., Bressel, M., Lee, J., Ladwa, R., Guminski, A. D., . . . Rischin, D. (2024). Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy for advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma in Australia: A retrospective real world cohort study. The Medical Journal of Australia, 220(2), 80-90.


Objectives: To review the outcomes of immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) treatment of advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) outside clinical trials. Study design: Retrospective observational study; review of patient records in fifteen Australian institutions. Setting, participants: All Australian adults with locally advanced or metastatic CSCC not amenable to curative surgery or radiotherapy treated with ICIs, 5 May 2017 – 23 May 2022, through a cemiplimab compassionate access scheme (Therapeutic Goods Administration Special Access Scheme) or who personally covered the cost of pembrolizumab prior to the start of the access scheme. Main outcome measures: Best overall response rate (ORR) according to standardised assessment criteria using the hierarchy: Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST 1.1), the modified World Health Organization clinical response criteria, and the Positron Emission Tomography Response Criteria (PERCIST 1.0); overall and progression-free survival. Results: A total of 286 people with advanced CSCC received ICI therapy during May 2017 – May 2022 (cemiplimab, 270; pembrolizumab, 16). Their median age was 75.2 years (range, 39.3–97.5 years) and 232 were men (81%); median follow-up time was 12.2 months (interquartile range, 5.5–20.5 months). Eighty-eight people (31%) were immunocompromised, 27 had autoimmune disease, and 59 of 277 (21%) had ECOG performance scores of 2 or 3. The ORR was 60% (166 of 278 evaluable patients): complete responses were recorded for 74 (27%) and partial responses for 92 patients (33%). Twelve-month overall survival was 78% (95% confidence interval [CI], 72–83%); progression-free survival was 65% (95% CI, 58–70%). Poorer ECOG performance status was associated with poorer overall survival (per unit: adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 3.0; 95% CI, 2.0–4.3) and progression-free survival (aHR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.8–3.3), as was being immunocompromised (overall: aHR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1–3.0; progression-free: aHR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.2–2.7). Fifty-five people (19%) reported immune-related adverse events of grade 2 or higher; there were no treatment-related deaths. Conclusion: In our retrospective study, the effectiveness and toxicity of ICI therapy were similar to those determined in clinical trials. Our findings suggest that ICIs could be effective and well tolerated by people with advanced CSCC who are ineligible for clinical trials.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.