Patient’s Perspective: Erin Youngerberg’s Take on Melanoma

Erin Youngerberg was diagnosed with melanoma in October, 2010, at age 32 years. Well-traveled and an avid photographer, she grew up in Minnesota, went to college and worked in Milwaukee, then made her way east, living in Ohio and North Carolina before ending up in Jersey City, just outside of New York City. After her diagnosis, she started a blog to keep folks back home updated. Called ‘Melanoma and the City,’ it tells the whole story: from appointments at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City to various city adventures; from treatment side effects to recipes for quinoa and tacos. Erin has also found herself dedicated to spreading the word about melanoma awareness. We asked her to take us through her melanoma story. Continue reading…

Immune-Based Drug Shows Promise Against Lung Cancer, Especially in Smokers

Results from an early clinical trial suggest that the drug MPDL3280A is effective against non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The phase I study found that tumors shrank in 23% of patients with advanced NSCLC treated with MPDL3280A. The effect was more pronounced in smokers (who had a 26% response rate) than in nonsmokers (a 10% rate), making it the first treatment with stronger activity in smokers. MPDL3280A inhibits PD-L1, a protein expressed on cancer cells that suppresses the immune response. Blocking PD-L1 allows the immune system to keep attacking the cancer. The tumor cells in smokers may carry more mutations, provoking a stronger attack from the unleashed immune system, which could explain the stronger effects in smokers.

Clinical Trial of New Drug to Treat Squamous Cell Lung Cancer Is Enrolling Patients

A clinical trial examining a new lung cancer drug is enrolling participants at numerous locations throughout the U.S. BMS-936558 (nivolumab) targets PD-1, a protein on the surface of immune cells that suppresses the immune response. By inhibiting PD-1, nivolumab ‘unleashes’ the immune system so it can continue its attack on tumors. The trial will investigate whether patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the lung, a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), do better when treated with either nivolumab or the chemotherapy agent docetaxel (Taxotere). To find out more, call 855-216-0126 or visit the trial’s website.

Another Anti-PD1 Immunotherapy Shows Promise for Melanoma Patients

Following in the footsteps of positive results for the drug nivolumab, another anti-PD1 antibody, lambrolizumab (formerly MK-3475), is also showing promising activity in melanoma. At the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, presented data from a large, 1,000-plus patient phase I trial that also included other cancer types. Continue reading…

Side Effects of New Immune-Based Lung Cancer Drug Manageable

Preliminary results from an ongoing early clinical trial of the new lung cancer drug nivolumab show that the treatment is tolerable. Out of 43 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with nivolumab and chemotherapy, slightly less than half experienced serious side effects. In most cases, these side effects were manageable with medication and/or discontinuation of nivolumab. Nivolumab targets PD-1, a protein on the surface of immune cells that switches off the immune response when it binds to another protein, PD-L1, which is often expressed on tumors. By inhibiting PD-1, nivolumab enables the immune system to continue attacking cancer cells. Additional clinical trials focusing on patients with squamous or non-squamous NSCLC will investigate whether nivolumab is more effective than the chemotherapy drug docetaxel (Taxotere).

Immunotherapies Take Center Stage in Treatment of Metastatic Melanoma

The promise of immunotherapy is coming to fruition with therapeutic advances in melanoma. In 1998, high-dose interleukin-2 (HD IL-2) became the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma. But HD IL-2 is severely toxic and benefits only a small minority of patients. In 2011, ipilimumab became the second immunotherapy approved for metastatic melanoma. Continue reading…

Avastin-Containing Chemotherapy May Be Safe in Lung Cancer Patients with Brain Metastases

Bevacizumab (Avastin), which is approved for treatment of a number of advanced-stage cancer types, is commonly avoided in patients with brain metastases (cancer that has spread to the brain) because of fear of brain hemorrhages (bleeding in the brain). A retrospective study of 52 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who had received chemotherapy containing Avastin found no cases of serious bleeding events and no significant differences in survival or treatment side effects between patients with or without brain metastases. Avastin may therefore be a safe treatment option in NSCLC with brain metastases.

Research paper:

Overexpression of IGF1R and EGFR Genes May Worsen Lung Cancer Prognosis

The roles of the genes IGF1R and EGFR in lung cancer were examined in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who had their primary tumor surgically removed. Patients whose tumors had increased expression of both IGFR1R and EGFR were more likely to experience recurrence of the cancer after a shorter amount of time and had shorter survival times after surgery. This finding suggests that concurrent overexpression of IGF1R and EGFR is a negative prognosis factor in NSCLC and may indicate patients who are more likely to benefit from novel treatments with IGF1R inhibitors.

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Study Suggests Iressa Effective for Elderly Patients with EGFR-Mutant Lung Cancer

A retrospective study in Japan examined 55 patients aged 75 years or over with inoperable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who had a mutation in the EGFR gene and received gefitinib (Iressa) as first-line therapy. The treatment was generally well tolerated and patients experienced longer periods without cancer progression (median: 13.8 months) and longer overall survival (median: 29.1 months) than commonly reported for similar patients. While studies using control groups will need to confirm that Iressa is indeed more effective than standard chemotherapy or a placebo, these findings suggest that Iressa may be a preferable first-line treatment in elderly patients with advanced EGFR-mutant NSCLC.

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