Rovalpituzumab Tesirine as a Maintenance Therapy After First-Line Platinum-Based Chemotherapy in Patients With Extensive-Stage–SCLC: Results From the Phase 3 MERU Study

Melissa L. Johnson*, Zanete Zvirbule, Konstantin Laktionov, Aslaug Helland, Byoung Chul Cho, Vanesa Gutierrez, Benoît Colinet, Herve Lena, Martin Wolf, Maya Gottfried, Isamu Okamoto, Cor van der Leest, Patricia Rich, Jen Yu Hung, Christina Appenzeller, Zhaowen Sun, David Maag, Yan Luo, Caroline Nickner, Alena VajikovaPhilip Komarnitsky, Jair Bar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Rovalpituzumab tesirine (Rova-T) is an antibody-drug conjugate targeting DLL3, an atypical Notch ligand expressed in SCLC tumors. We evaluated the efficacy of Rova-T versus placebo as maintenance therapy in patients with extensive-stage–SCLC after platinum-based chemotherapy. Methods: MERU was a phase 3 randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. Patients without disease progression after four cycles of platinum-based, front-line chemotherapy were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to receive 0.3 mg/kg Rova-T or placebo (every 6 wk, omitted every third cycle). Primary efficacy end points were progression-free survival (PFS) evaluated by the Central Radiographic Assessment Committee and overall survival (OS) in patients with DLL3-high tumors. Results: Median age of all randomized patients (N = 748) was 64 years; 78% had TNM stage IV disease. At futility analysis of the subset with DLL3-high tumors, the hazard ratio for OS was 1.07 (95% confidence interval: 0.84–1.36) favoring the placebo arm, with median OS of 8.5 and 9.8 months in the Rova-T and placebo arms, respectively; futility criteria were met. Rova-T significantly improved PFS versus placebo by investigator assessment (4.0 versus 1.4 mo, hazard ratio = 0.48, p < 0.001). Any-grade adverse events (≥20%) in the Rova-T arm were pleural effusion (27%), decreased appetite (27%), peripheral edema (26%), photosensitivity reaction (25%), fatigue (25%), nausea (22%), and dyspnea (21%). Conclusions: Because of the lack of survival benefit in the Rova-T arm, the study did not meet its primary end point and was terminated early. As a result, the Central Radiographic Assessment Committee evaluation of PFS was not performed. The frequency of grade greater than or equal to 3 and drug-related toxicities were higher with Rova-T versus placebo. Rova-T was associated with unique toxicities, such as pleural and pericardial effusions, photosensitivity reaction, and peripheral edema, which should be carefully considered in the population with extensive-stage–SCLC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1570-1581
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


FundersFunder number
Association of Community Cancer Centers
Bayer Bristol-Myers Squibb and Takeda
Brigebio Therapeutics
Corvus Pharmaceuticals
Cyrus Therapeutics
Daan Biotherapeutics
Gencurix Inc.
Kanaph Therapeutic Inc.
Kanaph Therapeutics Inc.
Mogam Institute
Ribon Therapeutics
Syndax Pharmaceuticals
TheraCanVac Inc.
Tmunity Therapeutics
Boehringer Ingelheim
Bristol-Myers Squibb
University of Michigan
Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A.
Merck Sharp and Dohme
Taiho Pharmaceutical
Chugai Pharmaceutical
Bayer Fund
Mirati Therapeutics
Astellas Pharma


    • DLL3
    • Maintenance
    • Phase 3
    • Platinum-based chemotherapy
    • Rovalpituzumab tesirine
    • Small cell lung cancer


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