Drug Combination Slows Breast Cancer Spread

“A combination of two drugs delays progression of advanced, aggressive breast cancer by an average of nine months – working in all subsets of the most common type of breast cancer.

“The combination – of a first-in-class targeted drug called palbociclib, and the hormone drug fulvestrant – slowed cancer growth in around two-thirds of women with advanced forms of the most common type of breast cancer.

“The combination allowed many women with metastatic hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative cancer to delay the start of chemotherapy, which is the traditional treatment option in these patients once hormone drugs have stopped working.”


Breast Cancer Cocktail Buys More Than a Year of Life

“A cocktail of three breast cancer drugs buys patients an extra 16 months of life — a good news story so unusual, doctors have rushed to make it standard therapy, researchers said Wednesday.

“The combination includes two so-called magic bullet drugs plus standard chemotherapy. It helps patients with advanced HER-2 positive breast cancer — a hard-to-treat type that’s more often than not a death sentence.

” ‘I can’t think of something that improves survival by this much. Often, we debate over changing practice for something that extends survival by a few months, so 15.7 months that is so impressive. And really that’s exactly what I see in the clinic,’ says Dr. Jennifer Keating Litton of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She was not involved in the trial.”


Drug Combo Cuts Death by One-Third in Metastatic Melanoma with BRAF V600E or V600K Mutations

The gist: Certain metastatic melanoma patients who have not yet been treated may do better if they take the drugs dabrafenib and trametinib than if they take vemurafenib. This was true for patients who had BRAF V600E or V600K mutations in their tumors. The patients participated in a clinical trial to compare the two treatment approaches.

“Patients with previously untreated BRAF V600E or V600K metastatic melanoma had a significant improvement in overall survival when treated with a combination of a BRAF inhibitor and a MEK inhibitor compared with treatment with a BRAF inhibitor alone, according to the results of a study published in the January 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“In fact, patients treated with dabrafenib and trametinib had a 31% relative risk reduction for death compared with patients assigned monotherapy with the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib, with no significant increase in toxicity.

“ ‘Together with the previously reported phase II and phase III trials of dabrafenib plus trametinib, as compared with dabrafenib monotherapy, these data provide clear evidence for the benefit of this combination therapy over BRAF monotherapy in prolonging survival,’ wrote study author Caroline Robert, MD, PhD, Gustave Roussy and INSERM Unité 981, Villejuif-Paris Sud, and colleagues.”


Clovis Oncology Enters Into Oncology Clinical Trial Collaboration With GlaxoSmithKline

The gist: Scientists hope that a promising drug called rociletinib could be combined with a drug called trametinib to treat people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have mutations in the EGFR gene. Both drugs are targeted therapy drugs. The combination might help treat people whose tumors are resistant to other targeted treatments, due to EGFR T790M mutations. The combination will be tested soon in a clinical trial with volunteer patients. Later, other clinical trials might try combining rociletinib with other drugs.

“ ‘We have seen significant activity in EGFR mutant NSCLC patients treated with rociletinib monotherapy, and so an important next step in our research is to examine rociletinib in combination with other targeted therapies that may also impact acquired resistance to EGFR inhibitors,’ said Lecia V. Sequist, MD, MPH, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead investigator for this combination study.

“ ‘As we continue to see compelling activity for rociletinib single-agent therapy at our selected dose, we look forward to exploring combination trials in both T790M-positive and T790M-negative patients,’ said Patrick J. Mahaffy, President and CEO of Clovis Oncology. ‘We believe that given the tolerability profile of rociletinib, particularly its lack of cutaneous toxicity, it may be a good candidate for combination therapy with trametinib, and other relevant targeted therapies. We intend to announce additional combination studies over the next few months.’ “


Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Varies Widely: Study Raises Questions About Early Treatment Choices

“Last month, the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that six chemotherapy regimens commonly given to patients with early-stage breast cancer vary widely in their side effects. The researchers found that some drug combinations are more likely to lead to hospitalization than others.

“The finding, while hardly surprising, points to the value of patients and doctors having fuller discussions about chemotherapy choices. An accompanying editorial emphasizes that because most patients are likely to live for a long time after initial therapy for breast cancer, and options abound, chemotherapy decisions should be more granular than is typical in practice.

“The takeaway is that major differences exist among chemotherapy regimens that are routinely given to patients with early-stage breast cancer. Taking ‘it,’ chemotherapy, is not an all-or-none decision.

“This matters because over 230,000 people – almost entirely, but not exclusively women – will receive a new breast cancer diagnosis this year in the United States. Most will have early-stage disease. And while many of those individuals will consider if they should have chemotherapy, or not, very few will ask their oncologists details about specific drug combinations.”


Phase II Study Suggests Benefit of Adding Rituximab to Chlorambucil in First-Line Treatment for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

“In a UK phase II study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Hillmen et al assessed the safety and activity of adding rituximab (Rituxan) to chlorambucil (Leukeran) in first-line treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Such a regimen may be an alternative to fludarabine-based treatment or chlorambucil monotherapy in elderly patients and those with comorbidities.

“In the study, 100 patients in 12 UK centers received first-line rituximab (375 mg/m2 on day 1 of cycle 1 and 500 mg/m2 thereafter) plus chlorambucil (10 mg/m2 on days 1–7) for six 28-day cycles. Patients responding but not achieving complete response could receive an additional six cycles of chlorambucil alone.

“Patients had a median age of 70 years (range, 43–86 years) and a median of seven comorbidities, 66% were male, 56% had Binet stage C disease, 36% had IgVH mutation, and 13q deletion, 12q trisomy, 11q deletion, and 17p deletion were present in 43%, 16%, 13%, and 3%, respectively.”

Editor’s note: A new clinical trial with volunteer patients tested a treatment that combines the drug chlorambucil (Leukeran) with the drug rituximab (Rituxan). The treatment was found to be safe, and may be more effective than treatment with chlorambucil alone. This combination treatment might be a good option for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) who might not be able to take fludarabine-based treatment, especially elderly patients and patients with comorbidities (two or more diseases).


Thwarting Drug Resistance in Lung Cancer


If you’ve read up on lung cancer research in the last few years, you probably know that large strides have been made in targeted therapies for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Targeted therapies are drugs that identify and attack specific mutated proteins that are detected in tumors. Because noncancerous cells do not have these specific mutations, targeted therapies can make a beeline for cancer, while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. Continue reading…


Melanoma: A 2013 ‘Progress Report’


The past year saw some remarkable advances in melanoma clinical research and treatment. This feature explores the most notable melanoma news of 2013: Continue reading…


Immune System-Boosting Treatments Show Long-Sought Successes for Lung Cancer Patients


In the past 2 years, cancer treatments known as immune therapies have become all the rage. However, they have actually been explored for decades, particularly in melanoma, and have produced some notable successes. Now, immune therapies are showing more and more promise for lung cancer. Continue reading…