American Society for Radiation Oncology | Sep 24, 2017
“A new study involving patients with stage IV cancer finds that treatment with radiation therapy and immunotherapy can halt the growth of tumors by stimulating the body’s immune system to attack the cancer. In the phase II trial, patients with end-stage cancer that had spread to the lungs or liver demonstrated a favorable response to the combined treatment. Between 30 and 60 percent of the patients, depending on the treatment arm, found that their cancer stopped spreading. Findings will be presented today at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).”
Non-metastatic breast cancers are most often treated with surgery, but if the tumors are fairly large, or involve nearby lymph nodes, neoadjuvant (pre-operative) treatments with chemotherapy (NAC) are done first. NAC often reduces the tumor size and kills cancer cells in lymph nodes, if present, prior to surgery, improving the outcome. The best possible result of neoadjuvant treatment is pCR (pathologic compete response), when the tumor is no longer visible in imaging studies. Here, I review the new directions in which neoadjuvant treatments are evolving.
Today, treatments for metastatic breast cancers are tailored for specific subtypes. Starting with the introduction of the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) for HER2-positive cancers, new, more specific treatment options were eventually developed and approved for other types as well. Estrogen deprivation endocrine therapies, lately prescribed in combination with CDK4/6 inhibitors, are used in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive cancers. Triple negative cancers (TNBC) are still treated mostly with chemotherapy, but immune checkpoint drugs and PARP inhibitors are explored in clinical trials, with some successes reported.
However, neoadjuvant treatments (except for HER2+ cancers) remain largely limited to chemotherapy regimens. This is starting to change now, with new approaches tailored to the cancer type being investigated in clinical trials.
In this regard, it is important to mention the I-SPY2 trial, NCT01042379, which started in 2010 and is for women with stage II-III breast cancer. It offers about a dozen drugs that are chosen based on particular features of the newly diagnosed cancers. This trial has a unique design and has produced some important results. Additional treatments and trials for various types of breast cancer are discussed below. Continue reading…
“The jackpot cancer immunotherapy ambitions of AstraZeneca stumbled in July with the failure of a closely watched clinical trial in newly diagnosed lung cancer. Friday, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker attempts a recovery with positive results from a new study, also in lung cancer, but aimed at a niche group of patients.
“AstraZeneca still trails cancer immunotherapy leaders Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb, but staking a claim in lung cancer marks progress.”
“In a head-to-head comparison of two immunotherapy drugs used to prevent relapse in certain patients with advanced melanoma, one treatment was the clear winner — and it’s not the one that most people get.
“The international study, released Sunday, involved 900 patients whose tumors were removed by surgery but who remained at high risk of recurrence of melanoma, an often aggressive form of skin cancer.”
“Scientists are stepping up the hunt for better diagnostic tests to predict if cancer patients will benefit from costly modern immunotherapy drugs, which are transforming cancer care but remain a hit-and-miss affair.
“Research presented at Europe’s biggest oncology congress in Madrid adds to evidence that patients with an above average number of genetic mutations in their tumors have a better chance of responding to the new treatments, and drugmakers are racing to confirm the idea.”
“Immunotherapy is a promising approach in the treatment of metastatic melanoma, an aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer; but for most patients, immunotherapy drugs so far have failed to live up to their promise and provide little or no benefit. In a phase 1b clinical trial with 21 patients, researchers tested the safety and efficacy of combining the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab with an oncolytic virus called T-VEC. The results suggest that this combination treatment, which had a 62% response rate, may work better than using either therapy on its own. The study appears September 7 in the journal Cell.”
“An update of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) clinical practice guideline clarifies the role of immunotherapy in the treatment of patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The update also provides new recommendations on the use of targeted therapies for patients with changes in tumor EGFR, ALK, and ROS1 genes.
” ‘Treatment for lung cancer has become increasingly more complex over the last several years. This guideline update provides oncologists the tools to choose therapies that are most likely to benefit their patients,’ said Nasser Hanna, MD, co-chair of the Expert Panel that developed the guideline update.”
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has awarded orphan drug status to a promising immunotherapy vaccine developed at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The FDA notified MimiVax LLC, a Roswell Park spinoff company, on Aug. 3 that its application for orphan status for SurVaxM as treatment for glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, had been approved.
“Orphan status is a special designation awarded to encourage innovation and exploration of approaches to treat rare diseases that affect relatively few people. SurVaxM, also known as DRU-2017-5947, is an immunotherapy drug that targets survivin, a cell-survival protein present in most cancers.”
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…