New Promising Drugs for Small Cell Lung Cancer


Any type of advanced lung cancer is bad news, but a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a particularly grim one to receive. About 30 years have passed since any new treatments for SCLC were developed, and patients’ responses to standard chemotherapy with etoposide and cisplatin are short-lived. Hopefully, this will change soon.

We begin this post with the immune checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy that is explored in seemingly every type of cancer, including SCLC. Reports from two clinical trials of these drugs were recently made available at two meetings on lung cancer treatment. Continue reading…


New Long-Term Data on Opdivo and the Opdivo + Yervoy Regimen Shows Survival Benefit Across Lines of Therapy in Advanced Melanoma

“Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY) today announced new long-term data of Opdivo in treatment-naïve BRAF wild-type advanced melanoma from CheckMate -066. In the trial, Opdivo continued to demonstrate superior overall survival versus dacarbazine with 57.7% of patients alive at two years compared to 26.7% of patients treated with dacarbazine. The safety profile of Opdivo was consistent with prior studies. The two-year survival and safety data from CheckMate -066 represent the longest follow-up from a randomized study of any PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor in the first-line setting of advanced melanoma. These data will be presented as a late-breaking presentation at the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) 2015 International Congress in San Francisco, CA from November 18 to 21.”


FDA Approves Pembrolizumab for PD-L1-Positive Lung Cancer

“The FDA granted an accelerated approval to pembrolizumab (Keytruda) as a treatment for patients with pretreated advanced non­–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) across all histologies whose tumors express PD-L1. The PD-1 inhibitor was approved along with a companion diagnostic, the PD-L1 IHC 22C3 pharmDx test, and is indicated for patients who progressed on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy or EGFR-or ALK-targeted agents in patients harboring those mutations.

“The approval was based on data from the phase I KEYNOTE-001 trial, in which the overall response rate (ORR) with the drug was 41% among a subgroup of 61 patients with pretreated PD-L1­–positive advanced NSCLC as determined by the 22C3 pharmDx diagnostic test. Response duration ranged from 2.1 to 9.1 months. A survival improvement has yet to be demonstrated in a clinical trial, and the accelerated approval is contingent upon the eventual outcomes of confirmatory studies.”


Madison Vaccines Announces Patient Dosing Underway in Clinical Trial Pairing Its Lead Prostate Cancer Vaccine, MVI-816, with PD1 Inhibitor Pembrolizumab

“Madison Vaccines Incorporated (MVI) today announced dosing has begun in a combination trial for MVI-816 (pTVG-HP), its lead prostate cancer vaccine, paired with pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), a PD-1 inhibitor, also called a checkpoint inhibitor. A PD-1 inhibitor works by exposing cancer cells to attack by the immune system by preventing the cancer cells from blocking an effective immune response. MVI-816, already in a Phase 2 clinical trial as monotherapy, has been shown to induce persistent T-cell responses in prostate cancer patients. The combination trial will test the hypothesis that both treatments work together synergistically. The first-of-its kind combination to reach this stage will be tested in men with metastatic, castrate-resistant prostate cancer, and will be conducted at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Carbone Cancer Center under the direction of Douglas McNeel, MD, PhD, a leading prostate cancer researcher at the university.”


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.’ “


UPDATE 2-Bristol's Opdivo Proves Effective Against Second Type of Lung Cancer

“A large study of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co’s Opdivo treatment has been halted after proving the drug is effective against the most common form of lung cancer, the company said, positioning the medicine for far wider use than its already approved lung cancer and melanoma indications.

“The U.S. drugmaker on Friday said the study, called Checkmate-057, was stopped early after an independent data monitoring committee concluded that Opdivo provided a survival advantage over docetaxel, a standard chemotherapy, among patients with previously treated non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“The so-called PD-1 inhibitor, which works by taking the brakes off the immune system, was approved by U.S. regulators last month to treat the less-common “squamous” form of NSCLC that had spread following treatment with chemotherapy.

“Opdivo is also approved for use against metastatic melanoma following treatment with Yervoy, another Bristol-Myers immuno-therapy.”


ASCO: Targeting PD-1 Works in Advanced Melanoma

“Two studies indicate that using investigative immunotherapy drugs improves survival and response in patients with metastatic melanoma, researchers said here.

“In one study, the agent pembrolizumab (MK-3475) which targets the programmed death (PD-1) pathway produced a 1-year 69% survival rate, said Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

“In a second study reported in a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Mario Sznol, MD, professor of medicine at the Yale Cancer Center, demonstrated that a combination of the investigative PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab in combination with another targeted agent ipilimumab (Yervoy) produced a 1-year survival rate of 85% and 2-year survival rate of 79% for advanced melanoma patients.”

Editor’s note: Immunotherapy drugs boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Promising research into new immunotherapy drugs for melanoma was recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Two treatments that received special attention were MK-3475 (aka pembrolizumab) and a combination of the drugs ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab.


At Last, Success Seen in Fighting Cancer with the Immune System

“Fundamental research — much of it done in Boston — has led to a shift in the scientific strategy for fighting some cancers, toward using drugs to activate a patient’s own immune system. An approach that was on the fringes of cancer therapy is suddenly the hottest trend in cancer drug development. On Monday, for example, Boston researchers presented data showing that nearly half of patients with advanced melanoma lived for two years after getting an experimental immune therapy called nivolumab, though multiple other therapies hadn’t worked for them. And drug companies have announced several deals recently to acquire companies developing immunotherapies. The frenzy of activity is an abrupt change for a field that had made big promises but failed to deliver for years.”


Killing Cancer through the Immune System

“The immune system has this blind spot by design – an immune system that has an ability to attack itself leads to autoimmune diseases, so as protection, it screens out its own tissue.

“For decades, scientists assumed that cancer was beyond the reach of the body’s natural defenses. But after decades of skepticism that the immune system could be trained to root out and eliminate these malignant cells, a new generation of drugs is proving otherwise.

“The treatment consists of infusing antibodies that enhance the immune system to recognize cancer cells and attack it. What’s more, since the immune system has a built-in memory, it continues to go after cancer cells, so the response can be longer lasting and more complete.

“The trick is that this treatment doesn’t work for everybody, and researchers don’t yet understand why. But when it does work, the results have been particularly impressive.”