Pivotal Phase II Study Showed Roche's Investigational Immunotherapy Atezolizumab Shrank Tumours in People with a Specific Type of Lung Cancer

“Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) today announced that in the large pivotal Phase II study, BIRCH, the investigational cancer immunotherapy atezolizumab (MPDL3280A; anti-PDL1) met its primary endpoint and shrank tumours (objective response rate; ORR) in people with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease expressed PD-L1 (Programmed Death Ligand-1). The study showed the amount of PD-L1 expressed by a person’s cancer correlated with their response to the medicine. Adverse events were consistent with what has been previously observed for atezolizumab.

“ ‘We are encouraged by the number of people who responded to atezolizumab and maintained their response during the study, which is particularly meaningful for people who had received several prior treatments,’ said Sandra Horning, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and head of Global Product Development. ‘We plan to present results at an upcoming medical meeting and will discuss these data as well as results from our other lung cancer studies with health authorities to bring this medicine to patients as quickly as possible.’ “


What Determines Whether a Melanoma Patient Will Respond to Checkpoint Blockade Drugs?


Of all cancer types, melanoma is the most investigated in terms of its potential to be treated through immune system-based approaches. More immunotherapy drugs are approved for melanoma than for any other type of cancer, and more are in development. Recent additions to the immunotherapy arsenal are the ‘anti-PD-1’ immune checkpoint blockade drugs pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo). Continue reading…


Practice-Changing Results From ASCO 2015: Immunotherapy in Previously Treated Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

“Immunotherapy wasn’t merely the big story of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2015 meeting; it was the tornado that left a vacuum in its wake, as some of us discussed—the unfortunate side effect of everything that wasn’t immunotherapy being swept aside as last year’s model of quaint anticancer therapy.

“In the world of lung cancer, at least, immunotherapy trials delivered data that merited real excitement. We saw truly practice-changing results that provided a glimpse of a new era in which we might expect lung cancer treatments to be transformed by integrating immunotherapy across many settings. For now, that will start with previously treated advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and we will also see where immunotherapy is heading next.”


Video: Dr. Nanda on Immunotherapy in Metastatic TNBC

“Rita Nanda, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, associate director, Breast Medical Oncology, The University of Chicago Medicine, discusses the efficacy of pembrolizumab and atezolizumab for the treatment of patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

“Response rates seen with the two immunotherapy agents in two separate clinical trials in a heavily pretreated metastatic population was slightly under 20%, Nanda explains. This is significant due to how heavily pretreated these patients were, she adds.

“Furthermore, these responses were found to be durable and lasted up to 40 weeks. Both pembrolizumab and atezolizumab were shown to be well-tolerated. Patients experienced low-grade toxicities that were easily managed.”

Click through to watch the video.


European Commission Approves Pembrolizumab for Advanced Melanoma

“The European Commission has approved the PD-1 inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) as a treatment for adult patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma in the first-line and previously treated settings, based on data from 3 clinical trials that assessed the medication in more than 1500 patients.

“The European Commission decision follows a recommendation from Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, and allows for the medication to be marketed across 28 European Union member states. The medication is approved at a dose of 2 mg/kg every 3 weeks. In the 834-patient phase III KEYNOTE-006 study, pembrolizumab demonstrated an extension in overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) compared with ipilimumab. Additionally, in the 540-patient phase II KEYNOTE-002 study, pembrolizumab improved PFS versus chemotherapy, with OS data pending maturity.

“ ‘Today’s European approval supports our goal of accelerating immuno-oncology research for the benefit of patients around the world,’ Roger M. Perlmutter, MD, PhD, president, Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement. ‘We believe that the broad data set supporting this approval helps illustrate the significant potential of Keytruda to treat advanced melanoma, a devastating disease.’ “


ECOG-ACRIN Opens Trial of Treatment Sequencing in Advanced Melanoma

“A new phase III cancer treatment trial has opened for patient enrollment that examines two treatments that work in completely different ways yet have both been shown in previous clinical trials to be effective in treating patients with advanced melanoma, the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group announced today.

“Half of the patients in the trial will be randomly assigned to begin treatment with an investigational combination of two immunotherapy drugs, given together, that work by unleashing parts of the immune system to kill tumor cells. If the treatment stops working and the disease gets worse, patients will receive a second, different treatment of two other drugs, also given together, that work by blocking molecular pathways that drive tumor cell growth and survival.

“For the other half of the patients in the trial, the scenario will be reversed. They will be randomly assigned to begin treatment with the two molecularly targeted drugs, and if those drugs stop working and the disease gets worse, they will be treated with the investigational immunotherapy combination.

“Researchers in the ECOG-ACRIN Melanoma Committee are conducting trial EA6134 to find out which sequence of treatments provides the best outcome for patients.”


The CAR T-Cell Treatment: Will It Work for Solid Tumors?


Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a new, immune system-based cancer treatment that has garnered recent media attention. In a clinical trial, CAR T-cell treatment left no signs of tumors in 70% to 90% of children and adults with the aggressive blood cancer acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). ALL is almost always fatal, and the results observed with CAR T-cell treatment are nothing short of spectacular. Continue reading…


Team Links Gene Expression, Immune System with Cancer Survival Rates

“Physicians have long sought a way to accurately predict cancer patients’ survival outcomes by looking at biological details of the specific cancers they have. But despite concerted efforts, no such clinical crystal ball exists for the majority of cancers.

“Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have compiled a database that integrates gene expression patterns of 39 types of cancer from nearly 18,000 patients with data about how long those patients lived.

“Combining the data from so many people and cancers allowed the researchers to overcome reproducibility issues inherent in smaller studies. As a result, the researchers were able to clearly see broad patterns that correlate with poor or good survival outcomes. This information could help them pinpoint potential therapeutic targets.

“ ‘We were able to identify key pathways that can dramatically stratify survival across diverse cancer types,’ said Ash Alizadeh, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine and a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute. ‘The patterns were very striking, especially because few such examples are currently available for the use of genes or immune cells for cancer prognosis.’ ”


Pneumonitis an Adverse Effect of PD-Inhibitor Immunotherapy

“Clinicians who have been treating patients with melanoma using immunotherapy are warning that autoimmune pneumonitis, sometimes with respiratory distress that necessitates intensive care, is ‘a rare but potentially serious toxic effect’ associated with the new programmed cell death (PD) inhibitors.

“Two such drugs are on the market: nivolumab (Opdivo, Bristol-Myers Squibb) for melanoma and non–small cell lung cancer and pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck Sharpe & Dohme) for melanoma. Both list pneumonitis as an adverse event in their product labels.

“The clinicians, with first author Mizuki Nishino, MD, all from Dana Farber/Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, report three cases of immune-pneumonitis seen after treatment with nivolumab in a letter published in the July 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.”