Background Immune checkpoint inhibitors and targeted therapies, two new class of drugs for treatment of metastatic melanoma, have not been compared in randomized controlled trials (RCT). We quantitatively summarized the evidence and compared immune and targeted therapies in terms of both efficacy and toxicity. Methods A comprehensive search for RCTs of immune checkpoint inhibitors and targeted therapies was conducted to August 2016. Using a network meta-analysis approach, treatments were compared with each other and ranked based on their effectiveness (as measured by the impact on progression-free survival [PFS]) and acceptability (the inverse of high grade toxicity). Results Twelve RCTs enrolling 6207 patients were included. Network meta-analysis generated 15 comparisons. Combined BRAF and MEK inhibitors were associated with longer PFS as compared to anti-CTLA4 (HR: 0.22; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.12–0.41) and anti-PD1 antibodies alone (HR: 0.38; CI: 0.20–0.72). However, anti-PD1 monoclonal antibodies were less toxic than anti-CTLA4 monoclonal antibodies (RR: 0.65; CI: 0.40–0.78) and their combination significantly increased toxicity compared to either single agent anti-CTLA4 (RR: 2.06; CI: 1.45–2.93) or anti-PD1 monoclonal antibodies (RR: 3.67; CI: 2.27–5.96). Consistently, ranking analysis suggested that the combination of targeted therapies is the most effective strategy, whereas single agent anti-PD1 antibodies have the best acceptability. The GRADE level of evidence quality for these findings was moderate to low. Conclusions The simultaneous inhibition of BRAF and MEK appears the most effective treatment for melanomas harboring BRAF V600 mutation, although anti-PD1 antibodies appear to be less toxic. Further research is needed to increase the quality of evidence.
- Immune checkpoint inhibitor
- Network meta-analysis
- Targeted therapy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging