Melanoma News at ASCO 2017: Combination Treatments

There are many hopes that combining immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs, or combining them with drugs of other types (immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or chemotherapy) is the future of treatment for many kinds of cancer. Literally hundreds of clinical trials are actively exploring these combinations, and melanoma is the cancer for which trials of this type abound. Last month, the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago featured just a few presentations in this area, apparently because it is too early to report results from the many ongoing trials with drug combinations. Continue reading…

Pembrolizumab/Entinostat Active in Melanoma Patients Refractory to Checkpoint Inhibitors


“Combining the PD-1 inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) with the HDAC inhibitor entinostat demonstrated promising clinical activity and acceptable safety in patients with melanoma who were refractory to immune checkpoint inhibitors.

“In the ongoing phase II ENCORE 601 trial, the PD-1/HDAC combination induced a response in 4 of 13 patients (31%; 95% CI, 9-61). The responses comprised 3 confirmed responses and 1 unconfirmed response, according to the study findings, which were presented in a poster at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting. An additional 4 patients achieved stable disease.”

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Entinostat Anchors New Combo in HR+ Breast Cancer Study


“A dual approach to overcoming resistance to endocrine therapy in patients with advanced hormone receptor (HR)–positive breast cancer is under investigation in a phase III trial that adds the novel drug entinostat to standard exemestane therapy after disease progression.

“The combination has generated excitement in the oncology drug development field after demonstrating an 8-month overall survival (OS) benefit over exemestane alone in the phase II ENCORE 301 study. Those positive results prompted the FDA to grant a breakthrough therapy designation to entinostat in this setting.”

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Tarceva May Be More Effective in Advanced NSCLC When Combined with Other Targeted Therapies

An analysis of multiple clinical trials compared erlotinib (Tarceva) alone to combining Tarceva with other targeted therapies as second-line treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In the various trials, Tarceva was combined with bevacizumab (Avastin), bortezomib (Velcade), everolismus (Afinitor), sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), entinostat, tivantinib, and R1507. While combined therapy produced more side effects, it was more effective than Tarceva alone. Notably, the trials included many patients who had not been tested for mutations in the EGFR and KRAS genes. In patients who had EGFR mutations and/or lacked KRAS mutations, Tarceva alone tended to control cancer progression better than combined therapy, highlighting the importance of biomarker testing to identify which patients are most likely to benefit from different therapies.