Hyperprogression in NSCLC Patients With PD-1/PD-L1 Inhibitors

Excerpt:

“Hyperprogressive disease (HPD) occurred more commonly among patients with pretreated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) receiving PD-1 (programmed cell death protein 1)/PD-L1 (ligand 1) inhibitors than in patients treated with chemotherapy, according to the results of a study published in JAMA Oncology.

“Among those patients with hyperprogressive disease – defined as disease progression at first evaluation with a variation per month exceeding 50% – treated with immunotherapy there was a higher metastatic burden and poorer prognosis, compared with patients without hyperprogressive disease.”

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Steroids Lower Survival Benefits Associated with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“The use of steroids at baseline was associated with inferior survival outcomes in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who were starting either PD-1 or PD-L1 blockade therapy, according to retrospective data presented at ASCO Annual Meeting.

” ‘Treatment with PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors is now standard therapy for nearly all patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer,’ Kathryn C. Arbour, MD, a fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said during her presentation. ‘The potential impact of steroids in patients with PD-1 or PD-L1 blockade has been an open question. Steroids are frequently used as a supportive medication in cancer care and can provide rapid relief of numerous cancer-related symptoms, including dyspnea, anorexia, pain, fatigue and symptoms associated with brain metastases. However … [physicians] routinely recognize that there can be substantial toxicities associated with long-term steroid use.’ ”

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FDA Grants Opdivo Priority Review for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“The FDA has granted a priority review to a supplemental biologics license application (sBLA) for Opdivo (nivolumab) for the treatment of patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) with disease progression following two or more lines of therapy, according to Bristol-Myers Squibb, the manufacturer of the PD-1 inhibitor.

“The sBLA is based on data from the phase 1/2 CheckMate-032 trial, in which single-agent Opdivo led to a median overall survival (OS) of 4.4 months and a one-year OS rate of 33 percent in patients with progressive SCLC following one or more prior lines of therapy. Under the priority review, the FDA is scheduled to make its decision by Aug. 16, 2018.”

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No Benefit of PD-1/PD-L1 Inhibitors in Metastatic EGFR Mutated Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“Immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In patients progressing on first-line therapy, immunotherapy with the PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors pembrolizumab, nivolumab, and atezolizumab has become standard second-line therapy. While these agents are associated with durable responses and long-term improvements in overall survival (OS), only a small proportion of patients respond to treatment. Relatively little is known about the factors that predispose patients to response on checkpoint inhibitors, and there is an unmet need for improved patient selection criteria.”

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ctDNA Can Flag Pseudoprogression in Melanoma Treated With Immunotherapy

Excerpt:

“Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) can help differentiate what is known as pseudoprogression from true progression of disease in patients with melanoma who are treated with programmed death 1 (PD-1) inhibitors, according to a new study. It also showed that ctDNA could be used as a powerful biomarker to predict long-term outcomes.

” ‘Pseudoprogression, a response that occurs after the initial development of new lesions or an increase in the size of target lesions, occurs in up to 10% of patients treated with PD-1 antibodies,’ wrote study authors led by Jenny H. Lee, MBBS, of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. ‘Confirmation of pseudoprogression requires subsequent imaging, imposing an ongoing challenge.’ ”

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New Developments in Melanoma Treatment


Neoadjuvant (before-surgery) treatments for resectable melanoma

Neoadjuvant treatments are the mainstay in the care of patients with breast, colon, and other cancers, but have not traditionally been used in melanoma. This has changed now, with the publication of a report showing that patients with resectable stage III or IV BRAF-mutant melanoma benefit from treatment with the BRAF/MEK inhibitor drugs dabrafenib and trametinib prior to (and continued after) surgery. The randomized clinical trial that produced these findings was small, but the benefits were so obvious that the researchers had to close the control group—those patients who received a placebo instead of neoadjuvant treatment. 71% of the 14 patients in the trial who received BRAF/MEK inhibitors prior to surgery were disease-free after 18 months, whereas all seven patients in the control group experienced a recurrence. The trial is continuing without the control group: all patients will receive treatment prior to surgery

Adjuvant (after-surgery) treatments

Melanoma patients whose tumors are surgically removed experience a very high rate of recurrence. Until recently, adjuvant treatments to prevent recurrences were limited to the drug interferon alpha-2B and, more recently, ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy), an anti-CTLA-4 immune checkpoint drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FAD) for adjuvant treatment in 2015. Interferon treatment is extremely harsh, with many adverse effects, and is not often used anymore. Yervoy is often associated with autoimmune side effects, which are sometimes quite serious.

Enter nivolumab (Opdivo) the anti-PD-1 checkpoint drug approved by the FDA to treat metastatic melanoma and other cancers. A clinical trial showed that the recurrence-free survival (RFS) rate at 18 months with nivolumab was 66.4% compared to 52.7% for ipilimumab (Yervoy) in patients with resected stage IIIB/C or IV melanoma. This amounts to a 35% reduction in the risk of recurrence or death with the PD-1 inhibitor versus the CTLA-4 inhibitor. Not the least important factor is the much lower rate of side effects seen with nivolumab compared to ipilimumab. Nivolumab is now approved by the FDA as an adjuvant treatment after surgical resection of melanoma.

Pembrolizumab, a competing anti-PD-1 drug, also showed encouraging results in a randomized trial for stage III melanoma. The stakes in this trial were lower, since the control arm received a placebo (not ipilimumab!). Risk reduction was 43%, according to preliminary results of the trial.

For patients with BRAF-mutant stage III melanoma, adjuvant treatment with the BRAF/MEK inhibitors dabrafenib and trametinib was just recently granted a priority review by the FDA, signaling a likely approval soon. Recurrence-free 3-year survival was 58% for the combination versus 39% for placebo.

New treatments for metastatic melanoma

A Knowledge Blog post from last summer described new combination treatments for metastatic melanoma. There have been significant developments since then.

Several trials combined PD-1 blockers (pembrolizumab or nivolumab) with small molecules known as IDO inhibitors. The latter help shut down the activity of immune system cells known as regulatory T cells (T regs), which dampen the immune response triggered by anti-PD-1 drugs. Combination of pembrolizumab with the IDO inhibitor epacadostat increased the rate of responses to pembrolizumab from 32% to 56%. This is very comparable to the response rate seen with the FDA-approved combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab. However, the significant toxicities seen with addition of ipilimumab are not observed when IDO inhibitors are added. Several other competing IDO inhibitors are currently in trials with both pembrolizumab and nivolumab. Importantly, there is also hope that these drug combinations may abolish resistance to PD-1 blockers in previously treated melanoma patients.

Another promising combination has been tested in a small clinical trial of nivolumab with NKTR-214, a specifically modified form of the protein IL-2, which is a strong activator of the immune system. High-dose IL-2 is a drug that has long been approved for metastatic melanoma but is rarely used because of the extremely serious adverse effects. NKTR-214 is a modified (PEGylated) IL-2 that has much reduced side effects, and does not activate inhibitory T regs. Clinical trial results have been released for 11 melanoma patients treated with the combination. Of the patients enrolled, 73% have experienced objective responses, which is obviously much higher than what is seen with nivolumab alone. This trial is now enrolling patients who have or have not already been treated with immune drugs.

Patients who were treated with anti-PD-1 drugs and experience progression may consider enrolling in trials that add relatlimab (an anti-LAG3 immune drug) to nivolumab. In a trial that enrolled heavily pretreated patients who failed on previous treatment with anti-PD-1 drugs, the rate of response was 11.5%, but many more patients (38%) have achieved stable disease. The presence of LAG3 protein (but not PD-L1 protein) in the tumors was predictive of response.

There are other new drugs to watch. TLR9 agonists (activators) have shown early promising results in melanoma. TLR is a group of receptors that are strongly involved in innate immunity. A recent publication showed that intratumoral injection of a TLR9 activator with an antibody to OX40 (a protein on T cells) has extraordinary activity in a mouse cancer model. Trials that combine anti-OX40 and TLR9 agonists are forthcoming. However, two TLR9 agonists, SD-101 and IMO-2125, have shown very promising results in combination with anti-PD-1 or anti-CTLA4 drugs.

The other drug with early promise is ImmunoPulse IL-12 (pIL-12). In combination with pembrolizumab, it induced responses in 43% of patients who had not been previously treated with immune drugs. The important point is that patients in this trial were specifically selected to have a tumor profile that is associated with lack of response to pembrolizumab. pIL-12 is injected into tumors, so this intervention is appropriate for patients who have injectable tumors.

New BRAF/MEK inhibitors for melanoma have emerged: encorafenib and binimetinib produced a 3-year overall survival rate that is twice as high as seen with vemurafenib, a BRAF inhibitor. The comparison is not exactly meaningful because vemurafenib is not used as a single drug in BRAF-mutant melanoma these days, but this phase III trial was initiated back in 2013, prior to the approval of other BRAF/MEK combinations. The new combination may be approved mid-2018.

The triplet combinations for BRAF-mutant melanoma should be mentioned (immune plus targeted drugs). A trial that combined dabrafenib and trametinib with pembrolizumab reported early success, with a confirmed response rate of 67% in 15 patients who received the combination.


Prior Treatment With PD-1/PD-L1 Inhibitors Improves Responses to Salvage Chemotherapy in NSCLC

Excerpt:

“Immune checkpoint inhibitors have significantly reshaped the treatment landscape of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in the second-line and, more recently, in the first-line setting. However, only a subset of patients achieves a durable response on immunotherapy, and it is not clear whether prior immunotherapy treatment impacts response to salvage chemotherapy.

A recent retrospective study evaluated responses to salvage chemotherapy in 73 patients with advanced NSCLC who had progressed on prior PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors. Ten of the 73 patients had received immunotherapy as first-line treatment, while the remaining 63 patients had received immunotherapy as second-line treatment following first-line chemotherapy. Response to salvage chemotherapy was compared to response to the last chemotherapy administered before immunotherapy (LCBI).”

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Neoadjuvant Nivolumab/Ipilimumab Combo Effective but Toxic for Melanoma

Excerpt:

“Neoadjuvant treatment with the combination of nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) demonstrated almost a tripling in objective response rate (ORR) compared with the PD-1 inhibitor alone but at the cost of significant added grade 3 adverse events (AEs) for patients with high-risk resectable melanoma, according to a small study presented at the 2017 SITC Annual Meeting.

“In the combination arm (n = 11), the ORR was 73% and 50% of patients achieved a pathological complete response (pCR). With nivolumab alone (n = 12), the ORR was 25% and the pCR rate was 25%. Unfortunately, these gains in response were accompanied by 73% of patients in the combination arm having a grade 3 AE compared with just 8% in the single-agent arm. This high level of toxicity led the researchers to close the study early, according to Sangeetha M. Reddy, MD, MSci. Reddy worked on this trial with co-investigators Rodabe Amaria, MD, and Jennifer Wargo, MD.”

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Inovio Pharmaceuticals Initiates Immuno-Oncology Clinical Study for Glioblastoma in Combination with Regeneron’s PD-1 Inhibitor

Excerpt:

“Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:INO) today initiated a phase 1b/2a immuno-oncology trial in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma (GBM) designed to evaluate cemiplimab (also known as REGN2810), a PD-1 inhibitor developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.(NASDAQ:REGN), in combination with Inovio’s INO-5401 T cell activating immunotherapy encoding multiple antigens and INO-9012, an immune activator encoding IL-12.”

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