“Combination regimens—particularly with checkpoint inhibitors and chemotherapy—are showing promise for the treatment of patients with squamous non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
“Beyond the May 2017 FDA approval of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) plus carboplatin/pemetrexed for nonsquamous patients regardless of PD-L1 status, researchers are turning their focus to immunotherapy combinations in squamous patients in ongoing clinical trials. For example, the randomized, open-label, phase III IMpower131 study is evaluating the safety and efficacy of atezolizumab (Tecentriq) in combination with carboplatin/paclitaxel or carboplatin/nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane) versus carboplatin/nab-paclitaxel in chemotherapy-naïve patients with stage IV squamous NSCLC (NCT02367794). The trial, which has a primary endpoint of progression-free survival, is expected to enroll 1021 patients.”
“The FDA granted priority review to a supplemental biologics license application for pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic, nonsquamous non–small cell lung cancer, according to the drug’s manufacturer.
“The application seeks approval of pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck), an anti–PD-1 therapy, in combination with pemetrexed and carboplatin regardless of patients’ PD-L1 expression, provided they have no EGFR or ALK mutations.
“The FDA is expected to make a decision by May 10.”
“Treatment with the multikinase inhibitor cabozantinib (Cabometyx) alone or with erlotinib (Tarceva) improved progression-free survival vs erlotinib alone in second- or third-line treatment of advanced nonsquamous epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) wild-type non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to the phase II ECOG-ACRIN 1512 trial reported by Neal et al in The Lancet Oncology.”
“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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“Nivolumab (Opdivo) has received an FDA priority review designation for patients with previously treated nonsquamous non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to the developer of the PD-1 inhibitor, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). Under the expedited process, the FDA’s decision deadline is January 2, 2016.
“The FDA simultaneously granted nivolumab a breakthrough therapy designation in this setting. The priority and breakthrough designations are based on data from the phase III CheckMate-057 trial, in which second-line nivolumab reduced the risk of death by 27% versus docetaxel in patients with nonsquamous NSCLC, including a 60% risk reduction among patients with the highest levels of PD-L1 expression.
“Nivolumab was previously approved in March 2015 for patients with squamous cell NSCLC who have progressed on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.”
“The combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin was superior to gemcitabine and cisplatin only in those non-squamous non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who were negative for the enzyme thymidylate synthase (TS), suggesting it could be used as a predictive marker to guide treatment.
“Previous research has shown that pemetrexed/cisplatin offers superior survival in nonsquamous NSCLC, while gemcitabine/cisplatin was better in squamous NSCLC. “A plausible mechanism for the histotype-dependent efficacy of pemetrexed-based chemotherapy can be explained by the presence of different levels of TS according to histologic types, with adenocarcinoma of lung cancer exhibiting a lower TS protein expression level than squamous cell carcinoma or neuroendocrine carcinoma,” wrote study authors led by Myung-Ju Ahn, MD, PhD, of Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in Seoul.
“TS is involved in de novo DNA synthesis, and inhibiting the enzyme leads to arrested cell proliferation; pemetrexed’s antitumor effects arise from inhibition of TS. The new study’s results were published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.”
“In the phase III INSPIRE trial reported in The Lancet Oncology, Paz-Ares et al found that the addition of the anti-EGFR IgG1 monoclonal antibody necitumumab to first-line pemetrexed (Alimta)-cisplatin did not improve overall survival in patients with previously untreated stage IV nonsquamous non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Enrollment was stopped due to excess fatal and nonfatal thromboembolic events in the necitumumab group.
“In this open-label trial, 633 patients from 103 sites in 20 countries were randomly assigned between November 2009 and February 2011 to receive cisplatin at 75 mg/m² and pemetrexed at 500 mg/m² on day 1 of 3-week cycles for a maximum of six cycles with (n = 315) or without (n = 318) necitumumab at 800 mg on days 1 and 8 of each cycle. Necitumumab was continued after the end of chemotherapy until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. The primary endpoint was overall survival in the intention-to-treat population.
“Enrollment was stopped in February 2011 based on the observation of excess fatal and nonfatal thromboembolic events and overall number of deaths from all causes in the experimental group. Analysis indicated that most fatal thromboembolic events occurred within the first two cycles of therapy, with necitumumab thus being discontinued in patients who had not completed two cycles…
“The investigators concluded: ‘Our findings show no evidence to suggest that the addition of necitumumab to pemetrexed and cisplatin increases survival of previously untreated patients with stage IV non-squamous NSCLC. Unless future studies identify potentially useful predictive biomarkers, necitumumab is unlikely to provide benefit in this patient population when combined with pemetrexed and cisplatin.’ ”
The gist: Cyramza, a drug recently approved for treating certain lung cancer patients, does not improve a standard treatment for stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In a clinical trial, Cyramza was given to patients along with the drug pemetrexed (Alimta) and platinum chemotherapy. Some patients received only Alimta and platinum chemotherapy. None of the patients had yet been treated with chemotherapy. The researchers found that there was no significant difference between the two groups in terms of the amount of time that passed without their cancers worsening.
“In a study of patients with nonsquamous non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the addition of ramucirumab (Cyramza) to pemetrexed (Alimta) and platinum chemotherapy did not significantly improve progression-free survival, according to a study by Doebele et al in Cancer. However, the investigators did suggest a possible clinical benefit of adding ramucirumab to established pemetrexed/platinum chemotherapy in patients with stage IV nonsquamous NSCLC not previously treated with chemotherapy.
“Studies have shown that patients with nonsquamous NSCLC who are treated with a combination of the platinum-containing agents pemetrexed and cisplatin have an overall survival of just 9 to 11 months. More recent studies in NSCLC have focused on the addition of targeted biologic agents, such as bevacizumab (Avastin), to platinum-containing chemotherapy to improve clinical outcomes. Bevacizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody against the vascular endothelial growth factor ligand, is currently the only antiangiogenic agent approved for nonsquamous NSCLC. A correlation between VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) expression and tumor microvessel density has been associated with a poor prognosis and lower relapse-free survival.
“With that in mind, Doebele and colleagues conducted a phase II study of the addition of ramucirumab to pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy. Ramucirumab, a fully human immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody, specifically binds to the extracellular domain of VEGFR2 with high affinity. The investigators wanted to determine whether the addition of ramucirumab to a standard first-line platinum-based combination chemotherapy regimen would result in prolonged progression-free survival….
“The results of this study indicate the addition of ramucirumab did not significantly prolong progression-free survival in patients with nonsquamous NSCLC. In addition, the overall response rate was not significantly improved for patients receiving ramucirumab vs those receiving only pemetrexed and platinum-based therapy. However, the investigators did suggest a possible clinical benefit of adding ramucirumab to established pemetrexed/platinum chemotherapy for the first-line treatment of nonsquamous NSCLC.”