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 combination of the programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1) inhibitor nivolumab at a reduced dose (1 mg/kg) with the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) inhibitor ipilimumab at standard dose (3 mg/kg) for four doses followed by standard-dose nivolumab alone is a standard of care for patients with advanced, previously untreated melanoma. This is based on results from the phase III CheckMate-067 trial that confirmed combination therapy is significantly more effective than single-agent nivolumab or ipilimumab. However, improvement in efficacy is associated with increased treatment-related grade 3/4 adverse events and treatment discontinuation in nearly 40% of patients.”
“With the prospect of phase III data that could confirm their efficacy, checkpoint inhibitors against PD-1 and PD-L1 have shown promise, both as monotherapies and in combination with chemotherapy for patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), Sylvia Adams, MD, said during a presentation at the 16th Annual International Congress on the Future of Breast Cancer East.
” ‘We think there is definitely value for immune checkpoint blockade in triple-negative disease. When you look at the metastatic trials, while the response rates are relatively low, most of the responses are durable,’ said Adams, from the NYU Langone Medical Center. ‘For patient selection, it is important to consider the line of therapy. The earlier the better.’ ”
“Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco researchers joined by physicians from UCSF Health. The findings provide a novel predictive biomarker to identify patients who are most likely to respond well to a combination of immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors—and to protect those who won’t respond from potentially adverse side effects of combination treatment.
” ‘Combination immunotherapy is super-expensive and very toxic,’ said Adil Daud, MD, director of Melanoma Clinical Research at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior author of the new study. ‘You’re putting patients at a lot of extra risk if they don’t need it, and you can adjust for that risk by knowing in advance who can benefit.’ ”
“Bristol-Myers got a much-needed boost with the earlier-than-expected news that Opdivo beat out Yervoy in a Phase III study focused on a particular niche for adjuvant melanoma therapy. And an analyst who’s been following the data says it could be worth a billion dollars in added annual sales.
“The big biotech says an interim analysis of Checkmate-238 provided researchers with proof that the PD-1 drug outperformed Yervoy, Bristol-Myers’ CTLA-4 drug, among advanced Stage IIIb or IV patients, cutting the recurrence rate for those who have undergone surgery. There are no bottom line numbers in the statement, but Bristol-Myers says they’ll be able to release data at an upcoming conference to show that Opdivo provided a significantly lower risk of disease recurrence.”
There are many hopes that combining immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs, or combining them with drugs of other types (immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or chemotherapy) is the future of treatment for many kinds of cancer. Literally hundreds of clinical trials are actively exploring these combinations, and melanoma is the cancer for which trials of this type abound. Last month, the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago featured just a few presentations in this area, apparently because it is too early to report results from the many ongoing trials with drug combinations. Continue reading…
“Immunotherapy may represent an effective new treatment approach for relapsed mesothelioma patients, according to a new study.
“Anti–programmed death-1 (PD-1) immunotherapy may have activity as second- or third-line therapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), an aggressive, rare cancer associated with asbestos exposure that has no curative treatment. All MPM patients relapse despite initial chemotherapy, and median overall survival (OS) is 9 months at most, said lead author Arnaud Scherpereel, MD, PhD, head of the pulmonary and thoracic oncology department at the University Hospital (CHU) of Lille in Lille, France, at a press briefing at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting (abstract LBA8507).”
“Seasonal influenza vaccination resulted in increased risk of immune-related adverse events (AEs) in lung cancer patients treated with PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors in a small study. However, the risks of the flu itself may still outweigh the risks associated with vaccination.
” ‘Use of immune checkpoint inhibitors is now standard clinical practice for many oncology patients, and these same patients—particularly those with lung cancer—also face increased risk for complications from influenza,’ said Sacha Rothschild, MD, PhD, of University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, in a press release. ‘Although routine influenza vaccination has long been recommended for cancer patients, there are concerns that it might trigger an exaggerated immune response in this subgroup receiving checkpoint inhibitors.’ ”
“Patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer, who recurred following radiation therapy and Temodal (temozolomide), did not survive longer when treated with the PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab) compared to standard-of-care treatment with Avastin (bevacizumab).
The findings mean that the randomized CheckMate -143 Phase 3 trial (NCT02017717) has failed to meet its primary objective.
” ‘[Glioblastoma multiforme] is a historically difficult disease to treat and conventional treatment options have demonstrated limited responses,’ Fouad Namouni, MD, head of Oncology Development and head of Medical at Bristol-Myers Squibb, said in a news release. ‘We remain steadfast in our pursuit of treatments for diseases with the highest unmet need and continue our work to determine how our immuno-oncology agents can potentially improve outcomes for these patients.’ ”