Metastatic Melanoma: Not Quite Curable…But Getting There


By 2050, the number of deaths due to malignant melanoma in the U.S. could be three times lower than peak levels reached before 1960. Researchers presented the data behind this prediction at the 2017 European Cancer Congress in January.

It is unclear how much of this anticipated decline in deaths can be attributed to the availability of new, effective treatments. However, it is obvious that much-increased awareness of sunlight exposure as the single factor most responsible for the development of skin melanoma has contributed to lower incidence of the disease.

In any case, the armament of treatments available for metastatic melanoma is currently such that this diagnosis has transformed from being almost universally fatal (even just a few years ago) into a being largely treatable. Since 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved eight new drugs for melanoma. Continue reading…


Study Provides Path for New Immunotherapy Approaches to Prostate Cancer

Excerpt:

“Prostate cancer, notoriously resistant to immunotherapy due to its immunologically cool nature, triggers two pathways to chill an immune attack after one immunotherapy drug fires up the immune system, researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center report in Nature Medicine.

“Based on their findings, the researchers launched a clinical trial for stage IV in March combining two drugs that target separate brakes on the immune system. The checkpoint inhibitors largely failed individually against the disease. Their results also implicate for the first time on a human tumor a third brake called VISTA in potentially inhibiting .”

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Expert Discusses State of Immunotherapy in Prostate Cancer

Excerpt:

“Advancements in immunotherapy in the field of prostate cancer have been slow ever since the FDA approval of sipuleucel-T (Provenge) several years ago.

” ‘It’s an exceptionally challenging area. After the success of sipuleucel-T, there have been combinatorial approaches using radiopharmaceuticals, such as radium-223, the checkpoint inhibitor ipilimumab (Yervoy), as well as some chemotherapy regimens,’ says Susan F. Slovin, MD, PhD.

“In an interview with OncLive at the 2017 Interdisciplinary Prostate Cancer Congress, Slovin, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, offered her expert insight on the current state of immunotherapy in prostate cancer.”

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Radiation Prior to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy May Lower Toxicity

Excerpt:

“Ten percent of patients with lung cancer who received thoracic radiation therapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors experienced severe toxicities, according to a retrospective study presented at the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Cancers Symposium.

“However, none of the patients who received radiation therapy before immune checkpoint inhibitors experienced severe toxicities.

” ‘Treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors and thoracic radiation therapy carried a modest risk for side effects,” Kamran A. Ahmed, MD, a resident in radiation oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, said during a press conference. ‘Our study indicates the risk for thoracic radiation therapy– and immune checkpoint inhibitor–related pneumonitis may be highest when thoracic radiation therapy is delivered after immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.’ ”

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Pembrolizumab Shows Promise in Treatment of Mesothelioma

Excerpt:

“Pembrolizumab, an antibody drug already used to treat other forms of cancer, can be effective in the treatment of the most common form of mesothelioma, according to a new study led by investigators from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study, published this month in The Lancet Oncology, is the first to show a positive impact from checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drugs on this disease.

“Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that represents about 90 percent of all malignant mesothelioma cases. It’s primarily caused by the inhalation of asbestos, a fiber commonly found in some forms of insulation, vinyl floor tiles, and other material. Tumors form in the pleura, a thin membrane of cells that line the lungs and chest wall. Most survive less than a year. This poor prognosis is partially due to the fact that most patients are not diagnosed until they are already at a late stage of the disease. The standard first-line therapy treatment involves chemotherapy, and currently there is no approved second-line therapy.”

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Expert Discusses Promise of Immunotherapy in TNBC

Excerpt:

“The combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy is showing promising response rates in certain patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), said ESO Umberto Veronesi Memorial Award Winner Giuseppe Curigliano, MD, PhD, who addressed genetic determinants of breast cancer immunogenicity in his award lecture at the 15th St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference.

“Curigliano emphasized the importance of patient selection in optimizing immunotherapy in breast cancer. In a study done by Curigliano, in collaboration with the Sidra Medical Center in Qatar, a subgroup of patients with TNBC who would derive benefit from checkpoint inhibitors were identified. This group, he stated, should be selected based on individual assessment of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.”

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Combination of Radiation and Immune Checkpoint Therapy Holds Potential for Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“An emerging approach for cancer treatment seeks to combine radiation therapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICPIs) to more effectively control tumors in the chest with an acceptable risk of severe treatment-related side effects. Ten percent of patients in a retrospective analysis of metastatic lung cancer experienced severe toxicity as a result of the combination therapy. Findings will be presented tomorrow at the 2017 Multidisciplinary Thoracic Cancers Symposium.”

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Clinical Trials Test Treatments for High-Grade Brain Tumors


With a few exceptions, glioblastoma (GBM) remains largely incurable, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved few treatments for the disease. Surgery (when feasible), radiation, and temozolomide are used in most patients. But even if a newly diagnosed tumor can be surgically excised, recurrences are too common.

In this blog post, I simply list some of the new treatments available in clinical trials for GBM and other high-grade brain tumors. Only drugs that have at least some preliminary results of activity are included, and the list is not meant to be fully comprehensive. The interested reader can judge for herself what might be of interest, keeping in mind that no single treatment is suitable or will work for all GBM patients. Continue reading…


Attacking Glioblastoma by Combining Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors with Gene Therapy Looks Promising

Excerpt:

“Attacking an aggressive brain tumor with immunostimulatory gene therapy while enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight it with immune checkpoint inhibitors might be a promising approach to treat patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor currently associated with a very poor prognosis.

“The findings from the study, “Immunosuppressive Myeloid Cells’ Blockade in the Glioma Microenvironment Enhances the Efficacy of Immune-Stimulatory Gene Therapy,” published in Molecular Therapy, revealed that combining both these approaches in glioblastoma mice models significantly extended their survival, compared to either treatment alone.”

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