Immune Therapy Drug Results in Prolonged Survival in Advanced Lung Cancer

“A Yale-led international study in patients with advanced non-small cell lung (NSCLC) cancer resistant to chemotherapy has found a promising weapon in an immune therapy drug commonly used to treat other cancers. The findings were published Dec. 19 in The Lancet and presented at the 2015 annual conference of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Singapore.

“The study, called KEYNOTE 010, compared pembrolizumab with the   docetaxel in 1,034 patients with NSCLC whose tumors expressed the PD-L1 biomarker. PD-L1 is a protein expressed by many tumor types that can render the  invulnerable to immune attack. The study endpoints were overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), and safety.”


Durvalumab/Tremelimumab Combo Could Be Useful in First-Line Treatment for NSCLC

“A combination of the anti–PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitor durvalumab (MEDI4736) with the anti–CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody tremelimumab showed improved tumor response in patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) over single-agent therapy.

“The study, published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, was a phase I, open-label, dose-escalation/expansion study that contained 84 patients. Of these patients, 48 had two or more prior lines of therapy. Data from the study showed improved tumor response regardless of PD-L1 status, with an overall response rate of 25% and 35% of PD-L1-negative patients receiving a response (0% tumor cell staining).”


Merck's Keytruda Extends Survival in Lung Cancer Study

“Merck & Co’s approved Keytruda lung cancer treatment provided superior overall survival to chemotherapy in a late-stage study of patients with advanced disease whose tumors produce a protein called PD-L1 associated with increased risk of the disease.

“The U.S. drugmaker on Monday said patients taking the approved 2 milligram dosage of Keytruda and those taking an experimental 10 milligram dose had longer overall survival compared with those taking docetaxel, a standard treatment for non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common form of lung cancer. Keytruda thereby met its main goal of the study.

“Patients whose tumors had especially high levels of PD-L1 also went longer without a progression of disease than those taking docetaxel, Merck said. Those whose tumors expressed PD-L1, but not at high levels, did not show such a statistically significant benefit in progression-free survival.”


Video: Dr. Kunz on Potential of Immunotherapy in Neuroendocrine Tumors

“Pamela L. Kunz, MD, assistant professor of Medicine (Oncology), Stanford University School of Medicine, discusses the potential of immunotherapy in the treatment of patients with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs).

“There are currently some clinical trials under development looking at immunotherapy in NETs both at Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Pennsylvania, Kunz explains. One phase I/II trial will examine the safety and efficacy of intratumoral injection of ipilimumab combined with an anti—PD-L1 agent in these patients.”

“It is possible that immunotherapy agents could be agnostic to disease sites, Kunz says. Though it was originally believed that PD-1/PD-L1 expression is a requirement to be a predictive biomarker, additional research could show that it may not be necessary.”

Click through to watch the video.


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.”


Nivolumab and Ipilimumab Combination Active as First-Line Therapy for Advanced NSCLC

“Nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy), a chemotherapy-free regimen, showed activity as a first-line therapy for patients who have advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to a preliminary clinical trial that was presented at this year’s World Conference on Lung Cancer.

“Four different regimens of nivolumab, the PD-1 inhibitor, and ipilimumab, the anti-CTLA-4 antibody, led to response rates of 13% to 39% in 148 patients with no prior exposure to systemic therapy. The combination produced deep and durable responses, with a low rate of treatment-emergent grade 3/4 adverse events (AEs) leading to discontinuation.

“ ‘Clinical activity was observed regardless of tumor PD-L1 expression,’ said lead investigator Naiyer A. Rizvi, MD, director of Thoracic Oncology and Immunotherapeutics at Columbia University Medical Center. ‘We have preliminary evidence of greater activity in tumors that have 1% or greater PD-L1 expression. The median disease control rate [response plus stable disease] was not reached in any arm, regardless of PD-L1 expression.’ “


To PD-L1 or Not to PD-L1: That Is the Question


These days, it seems that I write mostly about immune checkpoint blockade drugs, or some other new immunotherapy treatment for cancer. This post is no different—it covers PD-L1, a protein that is at the center of clinical decisions for selecting patients who are likely to benefit from treatment with an anti-PD-1 or anti-PD-L1 drug. Continue reading…


Immune Therapy Tops Chemo in NSCLC

“Patients with previously treated advanced or metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) had improved survival with an immunotherapeutic drug than with chemotherapy, according to updated results from a randomized trial.

“Twice as many patients treated with nivolumab (Opdivo) remained alive at 18 months as compared with those treated with docetaxel, and six times as many patients were alive without progression at 18 months with nivolumab as compared with the chemotherapy standard for NSCLC.

“Median overall survival was 9.2 months with nivolumab and 6.0 months with docetaxel, Karen Reckamp, MD, of City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., reported here at the World Conference on Lung Cancer.”


FDA Grants Nivolumab Priority Review in Nonsquamous NSCLC

“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.”