Application of Value Framework to Phase III Trials of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Esophageal and Gastric Cancer

Rajat Thawani, Neha Agrawal, Nicholas F. Taflin, Adel Kardosh, Emerson Y. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Recent trials testing immune-checkpoint inhibitors in esophago-gastric malignancies have shown mixed results. We aim to assess key subgroups using the ASCO Net Health Benefit Score (NHBS) and ESMO Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale (MCBS). MATERIALS AND METHODS: A search for phase III trials of FDA-approved anti-PD-1 or anti-PD-L1 drugs in esophago-gastric cancer trials was identified using These published studies were scored using the ASCO NHBS and ESMO MCBS. The ASCO NHBS scores were compared by primary site of cancer (esophageal vs gastric) and PD-L1 expression using the Mann-Whitney test and the ESMO-MCBS grading, by Fisher's Exact test. RESULTS: Fifteen of 45 clinical trials were included. Of them, 6 were primarily esophageal cancer trials, and 9 were primarily gastric cancer trials. Ten stratified their analysis based on PD-L1 expression. The ASCO NHBS score was higher (mean 40, range 20 to 56.6 vs. mean 12, range -1.1 to 18.4, P < .01) for esophageal cancer than gastric cancer. No difference was observed in survival and response endpoints between the 2 groups. Similarly, the ESMO MCBS scored higher for esophageal cancer group than gastric cancer (P < .05). Additionally, the scores were higher in those with high PD-L1 expression vs. low PD-L1 (mean 36, range 11.2-66.6 vs. mean 14, range -19.5 to 43.6, P < .05). CONCLUSION: The ASCO NHB and ESMO scores were consistently higher among esophageal cancer trials than gastric cancer trials and in those with high PD-L1 expression than low expression. Histology and PD-L1 expression should be considered when discussing value of immunotherapy to patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-47
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 18 2023


  • antineoplastic agents
  • comparative effectiveness research
  • esophageal cancer
  • gastric cancer
  • immunotherapy
  • outcome assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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