Drugs that activate the immune system to attack cancer in a process known as immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) are a focus of intense investigation. A number of them are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for various cancers; namely, the anti-CTLA4 antibody ipilimumab (Yervoy), two anti-PD-1 antibodies: pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo), and three anti-PD-L1 drugs: atezolizumab (Tecentriq), avelumab (Bavencio) and durvalumab (Imfinzi). These ICB drugs have the potential to induce durable cancer regressions, but the majority of cancer patients just do not respond to them at all.
Biomarkers, signature molecules in the blood or other tissue, can sometimes be used to predict a patient’s response to a given treatment. But no reliable biomarkers exist for ICB, and this is a serious concern. Patients who may really benefit from ICB could be overlooked, and patients who are not likely to respond may receive useless (and very expensive) ICB treatment.
Most potential response predictors that have already been identified are not yet useful for one or all of the following reasons: they are not extensively validated, their significance is still uncertain and may differ from one cancer (or even one patient) to another, or they are technically challenging for routine use. These markers are addressed below. Continue reading…
“The primary endpoint of improving overall survival (OS) was not met in the phase III JAVELIN Lung 200 Trial of avelumab (Bavencio) in patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to Merck KGaA and Pfizer, the co-developers of avelumab.
“According to results of the study, the PD-L1 inhibitor did not improve OS for patients with PD-L1-positive (≥1%) unresectable, recurrent or metastatic NSCLC compared with docetaxel in patients who had progressed on platinum-containing doublet chemotherapy (hazard ratio [HR], 0.90; 96% CI, 0.72-1.12; one-sided P = .1627).”
“Immunotherapy is quickly becoming a mainstay in the frontline setting for the treatment of patients with metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
“In October 2016, the FDA approved the PD-1 inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) as a first-line treatment for patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors have at least 50% PD-L1 expression and who do not harbor EGFR or ALK mutations.”
“Treatment with first-line avelumab yielded promising clinical benefit and durable antitumor activity in patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to a presentation at the IASLC 17th World Conference on Lung Cancer.
“After a median follow-up of 13 weeks, the objective response rate with the anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy agent was 22.4% (95% CI, 16.2-29.8) and the median progression-free survival (PFS) was 17.6 weeks (95% CI, 11.6-23.6) among 156 patients who participated in one of the NSCLC cohorts of the wide-ranging JAVELIN Solid Tumor trial, Claire Verschraegen, MD, director, The University of Vermont Cancer Center, said in describing early analysis data at the conference in Vienna.”
“The novel anti-PD-L1 agent avelumab showed some promising clinical activity and was generally well tolerated in a phase I trial of patients with unresectable, previously treated mesothelioma. Results of the trial were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, held June 3–7 in Chicago.
“ ‘Approximately 3,000 new cases of malignant mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States,’ said Raffit Hassan, MD, of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who presented the study. The current standard treatment of pemetrexed and cisplatin yields a median overall survival of 12.1 months, and there is no US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved therapy for patients progressing after first-line chemotherapy.
“Avelumab is a fully human anti-PD-L1 IgG1 antibody; it is under investigation in multiple malignancies. PD-L1 is expressed on the surface of mesothelioma cells, providing a rationale for avelumab’s use in this malignancy. In the new JAVELIN study, more than 1,600 patients have been treated with the drug across a variety of malignancies; in this analysis, 53 patients with unresectable pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma were included. All patients had progressed after a platinum/pemetrexed-containing regimen; they were unselected for PD-L1 expression.”
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“Saeed Rafii, MD, PhD, MRCP, medical oncologist, medical director, Sarah Cannon Research Institute, London, discusses the phase Ib JAVELIN solid tumor trial. The trial looks at the anti-PD-L1 antibody avelumab (MSB0010718C) in patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Rafii said the trial looked at 168 patients, regardless of the subtype of their breast cancer.
“Patients enrolled in the trial must have had 3 or fewer lines of chemotherapy prior to receieving avelumab. Rafii said of the patients, 10% experiences immune-related events. He also added that 8 patients had to stop due to treatment-related toxicities and that there were 2 mortalities. One of the 2 mortalities were from acute hepatic failure and another from respitority distress.”