Targetable Mutations in NSCLC: More Testing Needed!

Diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the lung, a major subtype of non-small lung cancer (NSCLC), nowadays triggers mandatory testing of tumor tissue for alterations in four genes: EGFR, ALK, ROS1, and more recently, BRAF. If present, these alterations predict sensitivity to specific targeted drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that work better and often longer than standard chemotherapy, and are better tolerated.

However, there are many more targetable/actionable genomic alterations (also known as “drivers”) in NSCLC. This blog post will briefly discuss most of them, with the goal of promoting molecular testing for more than the four “usual suspects” mentioned above. Some patients with these alterations may benefit from FDA-approved drugs or from enrollment in clinical trials that are testing additional drugs and drug combinations. Continue reading…

Update Sustains Osimertinib Activity Against CNS Mets in NSCLC


“New results again demonstrated the benefit of frontline osimertinib (Tagrisso) in patients with EGFR-positive advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and CNS metastases at baseline, according to data presented at the 2017 ESMO Asia Congress.

“The subgroup analysis from the phase III FLAURA trial included 128 patients with at least 1 measurable and/or nonmeasurable CNS lesion at baseline. Among 61 patients who received osimertinib, the CNS objective response rate (ORR) was 66%, compared to 43% (odds ratio, 2.5; 95% CI 1.2-5.2; P = .011) in 67 patients who received standard EGFR TKI therapy with erlotinib (Tarceva) or gefitinib (Iressa).”

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EGFR-mutant NSCLC: Choice of First-Line Treatment May Get More Complicated

Medical guidelines for treatment of newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) mandate upfront testing of tumor tissue for mutations in the EGFR gene (as well as ALK and ROS gene translocation). EGFR mutations are found in 10 to 15% of white patients, but in patients of East Asian origin such mutations are in encountered in approximately 48%. However, with new data and drugs entering the playing field, newly diagnosed patients’ treatment decisions could become more complex.

There is a good reason to test for EGFR mutations: the accumulated data show that, compared to first-line chemotherapy, treatment with drugs that inhibit the activity of EGFR in patients with activating EGFR mutations improves patients’ median progression-free survival (PFS) time from 4.6 to 6.9 months to 9.6 to 13.1 months, and has a higher objective response rate (ORR). Moreover, EGFR inhibitors are associated with a significantly lower incidence of adverse effects and better control of disease symptoms. Continue reading…

Adjuvant Gefitinib Delays Recurrence in EGFR-Positive NSCLC


“Adjuvant therapy with gefitinib (Iressa), an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeted agent, was more successful at preventing recurrence than standard-of-care chemotherapy, in a phase III study of patients with EGFR-positive non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Gefitinib extended recurrence-free survival by about 10 months in patients with stage II–IIIA NSCLC. These findings were presented at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting.”

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Adding Pemetrexed to Gefitinib Improves PFS in EGFR-Mutated NSCLC


“The combination of pemetrexed and gefitinib offered improved progression-free survival (PFS) over gefitinib alone in East Asian patients with advanced nonsquamous non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and activating EGFR mutations, according to a new randomized, open-label study.

“EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) including gefitinib have been shown to improve outcomes in patients with EGFR-mutated NSCLC. ‘Given their different mechanisms of action, combination treatment with EGFR-TKIs and chemotherapy may further improve outcomes,’ wrote study authors led by James Chih-Hsin Yang, MD, PhD, of National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei. Previous trials of such combinations have not shown clinical benefit, however, though this could have been because of antagonism between the agents used or because wild-type EGFR patients were included.”

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Lung Cancer Highlights from ASCO 2016

This year, the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) did not produce any truly groundbreaking revelations about new treatments for lung cancer. However, researchers did report quite a few positive findings, and some disappointing ones. I have summarized some of the more prominent presentations below. Continue reading…

Mutation Status Guides Advanced NSCLC Therapy

“The presence or absence of mutations in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) should guide selection of first-line systemic therapy, according to an updated clinical guideline from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“Patients with squamous-cell tumors that have no gene alterations should begin treatment with combination platinum-based cytotoxic chemotherapy, so long as they have good performance status (0 or 1). Optionally, bevacizumab (Avastin) may be added when the platinum agent is carboplatin. For patients with performance status 2, either chemotherapy or palliative care alone is an acceptable option.

“In the presence of sensitizing EGFR mutations, appropriate first-line therapy is afatinib (Gilotrif), erlotinib (Tarceva), or gefitinib (Iressa). Treatment should begin with crizotinib (Xalkori) when patients have tumors with ALK or ROS1 rearrangements, as published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.”

No Benefit of Adding Gefitinib to Platinum-Based Doublet in EGFR-Mutant NSCLC After Progression on First-Line Gefitinib

“In a phase III IMPRESS trial reported in The Lancet Oncology, Soria et al found no progression-free survival benefit of adding gefitinib (Iressa) to platinum-based doublet chemotherapy in patients with advanced EGFR-mutant non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who had acquired resistance to first-line gefitinib.

“In the double-blind trial, 265 chemotherapy-naive patients from 11 countries who had stage IIIB to IV EGFR-mutant disease and disease control with first-line gefitinib and recent disease progression took part. They were randomly assigned between March 2012 and December 2013 to receive cisplatin 75 mg/m2 plus pemetrexed (Alimta) 500 mg/m2 on the first day of a maximum of six chemotherapy cycles plus either daily gefitinib 250 mg (n = 133) or placebo (n = 132) continued until disease progression or discontinuation for other reasons…

“The investigators concluded: ‘Continuation of gefitinib after radiological disease progression on first-line gefitinib did not prolong progression-free survival in patients who received platinum-based doublet chemotherapy as subsequent line of treatment. Platinum-based doublet chemotherapy remains the standard of care in this setting.’ ”

FDA Approves Iressa for EGFR Metastatic Lung Cancer

“Iressa (gefitinib) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with a specific genetic mutation (epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR]). A just-approved companion diagnostic test can identify patients who could benefit from this new use.

“Iressa is a kinase inhibitor, a class of drugs designed to block proteins that spur development of cancer cells. The therascreen EGFR RGQ PCR Kit is a newly approved diagnostic that can help doctors detect patients with the genetic mutation who are candidates for treatment with Iressa.

“Iressa was evaluated for this use in clinical trials involving 106 people with previously untreated EGFR mutation-positive metastatic NSCLC. Tumors shrank in about 50 percent of people treated with Iressa 250 mg once daily. This effect lasted an average of six months, the FDA said. Severe side effects of Iressa may include interstitial lung disease, liver damage, gastrointestinal perforation, severe diarrhea, and ocular disorders. More common side effects are diarrhea and skin reactions.”