Early Chemo Linked to Improved PFS in High-Volume Metastatic Prostate Cancer

Excerpt:

“Patients with high-volume, castration-naïve metastatic prostate cancer may have superior progression-free survival (PFS) outcomes when treated with early docetaxel, according to findings published online in the European Journal of Cancer.

“Using the Quality-adjusted Time Without Symptoms of disease and Toxicity of treatment (Q-TWiST) method, investigators also determined that the benefits associated with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) plus docetaxel outweighed the risks associated with the treatment.”

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Sacituzumab Govitecan Demonstrates Durable Responses in Metastatic TNBC

Excerpt:

“Sacituzumab govitecan (IMMU-132) was well tolerated and demonstrated early and durable responses in heavily pretreated patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (mTNBC), according to the results of a recent phase I/II study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Sacituzumab govitecan is an antibody–drug conjugate that targets Trop-2, which is expressed in more than 90% of TNBCs, by selectively delivering SN-38, the active metabolite of irinotecan. It was granted a breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA in February 2016 for the treatment of patients with mTNBC, following at least 2 treatments for metastatic disease.”

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Neoadjuvant T-DM1 Improves pCR in HER2+/HR+ Early Breast Cancer

Excerpt:

“Twelve weeks of neoadjuvant T-DM1 (ado-trastuzumab emtansine; Kadcyla) with or without endocrine therapy induced superior pathologic complete response (pCR) compared with trastuzumab (Herceptin) plus endocrine therapy in patients with HER2-positive/HR-positive early breast cancer, according to findings recently published online in theJournal of Clinical Oncology.

“In the prospective, neoadjuvant phase II ADAPT trial conducted by the West German Study Group, pCR was 41.0% for patients assigned to T-DM1 alone and 41.5% for those who received T-DM1 and endocrine therapy. In contrast, 15.1% of patients assigned to trastuzumab and endocrine therapy had a pCR (P<.001).”

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Better Results in NSCLC with Higher Dose of ALK Inhibitor

Excerpt:

“Doubling the dose of the ALK inhibitor brigatinib (Alunbrig) improved outcomes in patients with crizotinib (Xalkori)-refractory non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a dose-comparison study showed.

“Patients who started treatment at 90 mg/day and titrated to 180 mg/day had improved response rate (54% versus 45%) and progression-free survival (PFS) as compared with those who received 90 mg throughout the treatment period. Response in brain metastases improved by 50% with the higher dose.”

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Targeted Radiotherapy Limits Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

Excerpt:

“Breast cancer patients who have radiotherapy targeted at the original tumour site experience fewer side effects five years after treatment than those who have whole breast radiotherapy, and their cancer is just as unlikely to return, according to trial results published* in The Lancet (link is external) today (Wednesday).

“The Cancer Research UK-funded IMPORT LOW trial** revealed that five years after treatment, almost all patients were disease free.***

“The researchers at 30 radiotherapy centres across the UK, led by The Institute of Cancer Research, London(link is external), and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre(link is external), studied more than 2,000 women aged 50 or over who had early stage breast cancer that was at a low risk of coming back.”

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Reengineering Immune System Cells to Fight Glioblastoma


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a diagnosis to fear. The search for better treatments is ongoing, but with little to show since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the chemotherapy drug temozolomide with concurrent radiation 12 years ago, based on data showing modest improvement in patients’ survival.

By now, a new cancer treatment approach known as CAR T-cell therapy is famous for its remarkable success in certain blood cancers. But there is not yet much to report for CAR T-cell therapy in solid tumors such as GBM. Still, the treatment may hold promise, and this post will discuss the possible applicability of CAR T-cell therapy in GBM.

What is CAR T-cell therapy?

CAR T-cell (chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T-cell) therapy is based on early work of Israeli scientist Zelig Eshhar conducted in the laboratory of the renowned T-cell treatment pioneer Steven Rosenberg at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They first prepared CAR T cells to target melanoma, and the treatment has since been shown to work amazingly well in certain types of blood cancer, including B-cell leukemia, and lymphoma. Continue reading…


Reengineering Immune System Cells to Fight Glioblastoma

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a diagnosis to fear. The search for better treatments is ongoing, but with little to show since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the chemotherapy drug temozolomide with concurrent radiation 12 years ago, based on data showing modest improvement in patients’ survival.

By now, a new cancer treatment approach known as CAR T-cell therapy is famous for its remarkable success in certain blood cancers. But there is not yet much to report for CAR T-cell therapy in solid tumors such as GBM. Still, the treatment may hold promise, and this post will discuss the possible applicability of CAR T-cell therapy in GBM.

What is CAR T-cell therapy?

CAR T-cell (chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T-cell) therapy is based on early work of Israeli scientist Zelig Eshhar conducted in the laboratory of the renowned T-cell treatment pioneer Steven Rosenberg at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They first prepared CAR T cells to target melanoma, and the treatment has since been shown to work amazingly well in certain types of blood cancer, including B-cell leukemia, and lymphoma.

Many improvements in CAR T-cell engineering have been made since its initial development, but the concept remains, in essence, the same: There are many types of immune cells collectively named T cells, but some of them are of the “cytotoxic” variety. Cytotoxic T cells have the useful function of killing cells that possess some proteins (antigens) perceived as foreign, like viral or bacterial proteins. Cancer cells may express some antigens (neoantigens) that are not found on normal cells, and should, in principle, be recognized and killed by cytotoxic T cells. However, this does not always happen because cancers have many different ways to either avoid recognition by T cells, or to inactivate T cells by creating an immune system-suppressing tumor microenvironment.

The general idea behind CAR T-cell therapy is to equip T cells taken from patients’ blood with a specific receptor that recognizes a particular neoantigen on cancer cells. These modified T cells are then infused back into the patient in the hope that they will destroy cancer cells that express that specific neoantigen.

Challenges for CAR T-cell therapy in solid tumors

There are several reasons why the CAR T-cell approach presents a formidable problem when it comes to solid tumors. First, it is difficult to find antigens that are expressed in cancer cells but not in normal tissues. A protein present in a solid tumor is most often also present in normal tissues and organs. To target it with CAR T cells would be really dangerous; normal tissue could be destroyed along with the tumor, without a chance to be replaced (most solid tissues are not continuously renewed like blood cells).

So what about neoantigens or mutated proteins found on cancer cells only? This is a good idea that has so far produced some promising results in tumors that express certain viral proteins, like HPV in cervical cancer. However, a lot of neoantigens do not present good targets for T cells for reasons that have to do with the details of how immune recognition works.

Lack of good targets for CAR T cells is just the first obstacle. The second one is the fact that T cells often cannot travel to tumors due to impaired tumor vasculature (blood vessel arrangement), and/or heavy tumor stroma (non-tumor cells encasing and blocking access to tumor cells). The third problem is that tumors actively develop mechanisms to avoid T-cell attack, like new mutations that prevent antigen presentation and immune recognition. Fourth, even if cytotoxic T cells do manage to infiltrate tumors, cancer cells often express certain proteins that directly inhibit them. Cancers also produce proteins that attract inhibitory immune cells of several types, such as regulatory T cells or myelosuppressive cells. Myelosuppressive cells repel and inhibit cytotoxic T cells, including CAR T-cells that have been infused into the body.

Why GBM?

Due to the known problems described above, few clinical trials are actively developing CAR T-cell strategies for treatment of solid tumors. However, among those that are, GBM seems to be disproportionally represented. This is possibly due to the simple fact that nothing else has really worked in GBM. It is also hoped that GBM may have some “unique” antigens that could be targeted safely.

Current CAR T-cell trials in GBM

Late last year, researchers described a case of successful treatment of a GBM patient with CAR T cells targeting a protein known as IL13Rα2, which is found in GBM cells. The patient, who had several tumors in the brain, received multiple injections of CAR T cells into the cavity left by a resected (surgically removed) tumor, and also into the brain ventricular system to ensure delivery to un-resected tumors. This worked remarkably well for over 7 months, but new tumors unfortunately developed and were successfully treated with more CAR T-cell infusions, this time also into the cerebrospinal fluid. Responses to treatment were also observed in some other patients enrolled in the same ongoing clinical trial, which is run by City of Hope in California (NCT02208362).

Other GBM CAR T-cell trials target EGFRvIII, a particular version of the EGFR protein that is found in GBM. EGFRvIII is not a universal target in GBM because it is expressed in less than a third of patients’ tumors. The other problem is that even if it is found in a given tumor, its presence within that tumor may not be uniform; some (many?) of the cancer cells in a tumor that tests positive for EGFRvIII overall do not have the protein, and will therefore avoid recognition by CAR T cells directed towards EGFRvIII.

Recently published results document these anticipated problems, as well as new problems with EGFRvIII-targeting CAR T cells. In a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania (NCT02209376), 10 patients with EGFRvIII-positive tumors received one intravenous infusion of CAR T cells targeting EGFRvIII (versus direct injection into the tumor used in the City of Hope trial mentioned above). Seven of the patients had their tumors resected after infusion of CAR T cells, which allowed for analysis of changes induced by the modified T cells. Loss of the EGFRvIII antigen after CAR T-cell treatment was seen in five of the seven resected tumors. This could be due to successful killing of EGFRvIII-positive cells, or it could be the result of loss of EGFRvIII expression by tumor cells.

Unfortunately, CAR T-cell treatment also created an immune system-suppressive environment in the tumors of the treated patients. This manifested as increased expression of some proteins known to dampen immune response (including IDO and PD-L1) and recruitment of cells that inhibit cytotoxic activity of T cells. However, it should be possible to overcome this type of resistance by adding a relevant immune checkpoint drug to CAR T-cell treatment.

One of the 10 patients in this trial was alive at 18 months post-treatment. Overall, these data indicate that CAR T cells infused intravenously do travel to GBM tumors, but also that the tumors employ a variety of mechanisms to repel the immune attack.

At least three more ongoing clinical trials are investigating CAR T cells that target EGFRvIII. Additionally, a new target for CAR T cells in GBM is now being explored: CMV, a virus thought to be associated with and suspected to contribute to development of GBM. One trial (NCT02661282) will administer up to four intravenous infusions of CMV-specific CAR T cells to patients receiving temozolomide.

However, there is a potentially serious problem with CMV-directed CAR T cells: Even though many publications have reported that CMV is found in practically all GBM tumors, a number of publications have failed to confirm this. While some GBM patients are seropositive for CMV antibodies in their blood (meaning that they have been infected with the virus at some point in their lives, as have many healthy people), the potential absence of CMV from tumor tissues may spell failure for CAR T cells targeting CMV. Time will tell.


Proton Tx Plus Chemo Seen Beneficial in NSCLC

Excerpt:

“The use of proton beam radiotherapy and concurrent chemotherapy may improve clinical outcomes for patients with inoperable stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), while reducing the toxic effects of treatment, researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center have found.

“The researchers, led by Joe Y. Chang, MD, PhD, reported that the median overall survival of 26.5 months observed in their study ‘was encouraging, and in accord with our original statistical goal of 24 months.’ ”

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Tagrisso Significantly Improves Progression-Free Survival in the Phase III FLAURA Trial for Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“AstraZeneca today announced that the Phase III FLAURA trial showed a statistically-significant and clinically-meaningful progression-free survival (PFS) benefit with Tagrisso (osimertinib) compared to current 1st-line standard-of-care treatment (erlotinib or gefitinib) in previously-untreated patients with locally-advanced or metastatic epidermal growth factor receptor mutation-positive (EGFRm) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“Sean Bohen, Executive Vice President, Global Medicines Development and Chief Medical Officer at AstraZeneca, said: ‘The strong results from the FLAURA trial are very exciting news for patients with EGFR mutation-positive non-small cell lung cancer, providing physicians with a potential new first-line treatment option to improve outcomes in this disease. We will now initiate discussions with global health authorities on the data and regulatory submissions.’ ”

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