A Cost-effectiveness Analysis Comparing Pembrolizumab-Axitinib, Nivolumab-Ipilimumab, and Sunitinib for Treatment of Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma

Alan Chan, Carolyn Dang, Jessica Wisniewski, Xiuhua Weng, Edward Hynson, Lixian Zhong, Leslie Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved nivolumab-ipilimumab and pembrolizumab-axitinib as first-line treatments for metastatic, clear-cell, renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) based on results from CheckMate 214 and KEYNOTE-426. Our objective was to compare the adjusted, lifetime cost-effectiveness between nivolumab-ipilimumab, pembrolizumab-axitinib, and sunitinib for patients with mRCC. Materials and Methods: A 3-state Markov model was developed comparing nivolumab-ipilimumab and pembrolizumab-axitinib to each other and sunitinib, over a 20-year lifetime horizon from a US medical center perspective. The clinical outcomes of nivolumab-ipilimumab and pembrolizumab-axitinib were compared using matching-adjusted indirect comparison. Costs of drug treatment, adverse events, and utilities associated with different health states and adverse events were determined using national sources and published literature. Our outcome was incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) using quality-adjusted life years (QALY). One-way and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted. Results: Nivolumab-ipilimumab was the most cost-effective option in the base case analysis with an ICER of $34,190/QALY compared with sunitinib, while the pembrolizumab-axitinib ICER was dominated by nivolumab-ipilimumab and was not cost-effective (ICER = $12,630,828/ QALY) compared with sunitinib. The mean total costs per patient for the nivolumab-ipilimumab and pembrolizumab-axitinib arms were $284,683 and $457,769, respectively, compared with sunitinib at $241,656. QALY was longer for nivolumab-ipilimumab (3.23 QALY) than for adjusted pembrolizumab-axitinib (1.99 QALY), which was longer than sunitinib’s (1.98 QALY). These results were most sensitive to treatment cost in both groups, but plausible changes did not alter the conclusions. Conclusions: The base case scenario indicated that nivolumab-ipilimumab was the most cost-effective treatment option for mRCC compared with pembrolizumab-axitinib and sunitinib.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Oncology: Cancer Clinical Trials
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Axitinib
  • Cost-effectiveness analysis
  • Ipilimumab
  • Keytruda
  • Nivolumab
  • Opdivo
  • Pembrolizumab
  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Sunitinib
  • Yervoy
  • Drug Costs
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Axitinib/administration & dosage
  • Kidney Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Nivolumab/administration & dosage
  • United States
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab/administration & dosage
  • Sunitinib/administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized/administration & dosage
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell/drug therapy
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols/economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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