“The FDA granted priority review designation to a supplemental biologics license application that seeks approval of pembrolizumab for use in combination with chemotherapy as first-line treatment of metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer regardless of PD-L1 expression.
“The combination of nivolumab (Opdivo) and low-dose ipilimumab (Yervoy) reduced the risk of progression or death by 52% compared with standard platinum doublet chemotherapy for patients with metastatic PD-L1–negative, tumor mutation burden (TMB)-high non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to findings from the phase III CheckMate 227 trial presented at the 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting.
“In the PD-L1–negative (<1% expression), TMB-high (≥10 mutations/megabase) subgroup, regardless of histology, median progression-free survival (PFS) with nivolumab/ipilimumab was 7.7 months compared with 5.3 months for chemotherapy and 6.2 months for nivolumab and chemotherapy. The 1-year PFS rate was 45% with nivolumab/ipilimumab compared with 27% for nivolumab/chemotherapy and just 8% for chemotherapy.”
“Patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with pembrolizumab (Keytruda) had a greater median survival than patients treated with standard chemotherapy, even if the former had low levels of PD-L1, researchers reported here.
“Depending on the percentage of PD-L1 expression in the tumor, survival was between 4 and 8 months longer for patients treated with immunotherapy alone versus those treated with chemotherapy, according to Gilberto Lopes, MD, MBA, of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami, and colleagues.”
Drugs that activate the immune system to attack cancer in a process known as immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) are a focus of intense investigation. A number of them are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for various cancers; namely, the anti-CTLA4 antibody ipilimumab (Yervoy), two anti-PD-1 antibodies: pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo), and three anti-PD-L1 drugs: atezolizumab (Tecentriq), avelumab (Bavencio) and durvalumab (Imfinzi). These ICB drugs have the potential to induce durable cancer regressions, but the majority of cancer patients just do not respond to them at all.
Biomarkers, signature molecules in the blood or other tissue, can sometimes be used to predict a patient’s response to a given treatment. But no reliable biomarkers exist for ICB, and this is a serious concern. Patients who may really benefit from ICB could be overlooked, and patients who are not likely to respond may receive useless (and very expensive) ICB treatment.
Most potential response predictors that have already been identified are not yet useful for one or all of the following reasons: they are not extensively validated, their significance is still uncertain and may differ from one cancer (or even one patient) to another, or they are technically challenging for routine use. These markers are addressed below. Continue reading…
“Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced that the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-042 trial evaluating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, as monotherapy for the first-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC, including nonsquamous or squamous histologies) met its primary endpoint of overall survival (OS). An interim analysis conducted by the independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) demonstrated that treatment with KEYTRUDA resulted in significantly longer OS than platinum-based chemotherapy (carboplatin plus paclitaxel or carboplatin plus pemetrexed) in patients with a PD-L1 tumor proportion score (TPS) of ≥1 percent. As part of a pre-specified analysis plan, OS was sequentially tested and was significantly improved in patients with a TPS of ≥50 percent, with a TPS of ≥20 percent and then in the entire study population with a TPS of ≥1 percent. The safety profile of KEYTRUDA in this trial was consistent with that observed in previously reported monotherapy studies involving patients with advanced NSCLC.”
“Improvements in OS, but not PFS, indicate that maintenance treatment with pembrolizumab may benefit a subset of patients with small cell lung cancer, and biomarkers are needed to identify individuals in whom pembrolizumab may be effective, according to findings presented at the ASCO Annual Meeting.
” ‘The standard of care for these patients – 4 to 6 cycles of platinum plus etoposide – has not changed in the United States in the last 30 years,’ Shirish Gadgeel, MD, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, said during a presentation. ‘Despite a high response rate with this therapy, overall outcomes for these patients are quite poor. There is a need to identify other agents that can provide benefit in these patients.’ ”
“Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) monotherapy produced substantial response rates as first-line or subsequent treatment in patients who had advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with confirmed programmed cell death ligand 1(PD-L1) expression, reported the phase II BIRCH trial.
“Atezolizumab therapy produced a 22% objective response rate in first-line treatment, 19% in second-line, and 18% in third-line or higher in patients with PD-L1 expression on ≥ 5% of tumor cells (TC) or tumor-infiltrating immune cells (IC), according to Enriqueta Felip, MD, PhD, of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues. Patients with the highest levels of PD-L1 expression — TC3 or IC3 — had better objective response rates: 31% in first-line, 26% in second-line, and 27% third-line or higher.”
“Findings from a phase III clinical trial for advanced lung cancer patients could help oncologists better predict which patients are likely to receive the most benefit from immunotherapy as a first-line treatment based on the unique molecular characteristics of their tumor, according to a new study reported by a global team led by David Carbone, MD, PhD, of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
“In this study, researchers compared the effectiveness of the immunotherapy drug nivolumab (pronounced ‘nye VOL ue mab,’ marketed at Opdivo), with standard-of-care chemotherapy in 541 patients with previously untreated or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that expressed PDL-1 antibodies.”
“Updates to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines for the management of advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) stress the importance of multiplexed biomarker testing at diagnosis to aid in the selection of appropriate first-line and subsequent lines of therapy, said presenters at the 2017 NCCN Annual Conference.
“The latest version of the guidelines recommends that PD-L1, in addition to molecular analysis, be employed as a biomarker to direct initial therapy, with ≥50% expression established as the threshold for a positive result. The PD-L1 test ‘decides whether a patient has enough of the marker to warrant initial immunotherapy,’ said presenter Gregory J. Riely, MD, PhD.”