The following article features coverage from the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress 2021. Click here to read more of Hematology Advisor’s conference coverage.

Among patients with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma treated with nivolumab, interleukin-6 levels appear to be predictive of both progression-free survival (PFS) and time to treatment response, according to research presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress 2021.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors, including nivolumab, have improved outcomes among patients with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma. Patients who receive these immunotherapies over a long period may, however, develop immune-related toxicities and a heavy financial burden, suggesting that determining the optimal duration of checkpoint inhibition is a pressing matter in this patient population.

For this study, researchers evaluated patient serum soluble programmed death-ligand 1 (sPD-L1) levels as well as serum levels of interleukin-6 and interleukin-15, to determine whether any is a viable biomarker for clinical outcomes and safety in a population of patients with relapsed/refractory Hodgkin lymphoma treated with nivolumab.

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Overall, serum sample data from 52 patients were included. At a median follow-up of 53 months (range, 20-61), the 4-year overall survival rate was 93%; the 4-year PFS rate was 26% and median PFS was 20.6 months.

Prior to treatment initiation, the mean patient interleukin-6 level was 7.98 pg/mL, the mean interleukin-15 level was 12.33 pg/mL, and the mean PD-L1 level was 9.8 pg/mL. At treatment initiation, higher interleukin-6 levels were linked with a greater chance of B-symptoms and extranodal involvement. Soluble PD-L1 levels also positively correlated with tumor volume prior to nivolumab initiation.

Patients with lower interleukin-6 levels (using a cutoff point of 2.2 pg/mL) prior to therapy initiation had improved PFS (median, 23.7 months vs 12.6 months among patients with higher interleukin-6 levels; P =.029) and a reduced time to treatment response (median, 2.8 months vs 8.1 months, respectively).

The authors said, “sPD-L1 level has positive correlation with tumor volume before the nivolumab treatment start. Serum [interleukin-6] was predictive regarding PFS and time to response from the start of nivolumab. [Additional] studies are required to assess the predictive value of [interleukin-6].”

Read more of Hematology Advisor’s coverage of ESMO 2021 by visiting the conference page.


Chekalov A, Shmidt D, Lepik K, et al. Role of assessment of IL-6, IL-15 and soluble PD-L1 levels as prognostic and predictive biomarkers in nivolumab-treated relapsed/refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. Presented at: European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress 2021; September 16-21, 2021. Abstract 834P.