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.”


Melanoma at ASCO 2015: Immunotherapy Continues to Make Headlines


The biggest news in melanoma treatment from the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting was undoubtedly the report from a large, phase III, randomized clinical trial that compared a combination of two ‘checkpoint inhibitor’ drugs—nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy)—with the same drugs given alone.

In the CheckMate-067 trial, 945 previously untreated patients with unresectable stage III or IV melanoma were assigned to Opdivo alone, Opdivo plus Yervoy, or Yervoy alone. Continue reading…


Immunotherapy Combo Cuts Melanoma Death Risk

“An immunotherapy combination for untreated melanoma reduced the risk of death or progression by more than half as compared with a drug currently used as a standard of care, a large randomized trial showed.

“Patients treated with nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) had a median progression-free survival (PFS) of 11.5 months compared with 2.9 months for ipilimumab alone and 6.9 months with nivolumab monotherapy. Median PFS with the combination and with nivolumab alone increased to 14 months — more than four times greater than the PFS of patients who received only ipilimumab — among patients whose tumors tested positive for programmed death receptor ligand 1 (PD-L1), the target of nivolumab.

“The PFS improvement came at a price of increased toxicity, as grade 3/4 adverse events occurred twice as often with the combination as with ipilimumab monotherapy, but even patients who discontinued treatment because of side effects did better with the combination, as reported here at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.”


Tests for New Cancer Drugs Not Reliable Enough, Doctors Say

“Drugmakers including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Merck & Co are testing which patients will most benefit from new cancer treatments based on a protein found in their tumors, but that guide, known as a biomarker, may be too unreliable, researchers and health experts said.

“Bristol’s Opdivo and Merck’s Keytruda are both therapies designed to block a protein known as Programmed Death receptor (PD-1) that tumors use to evade the body’s natural defenses. Competitors Roche Holding, AstraZeneca and Pfizer also have similar drugs in an earlier stage of development. The drugmakers are conducting clinical trials that test patient tumors for a related protein called PD-L1.

“The new drugs are mainly aimed at patients with so-called solid tumors suffering from diseases including lung cancer and liver cancer. Lung cancer, the most common type, claims 1.8 million new cases each year worldwide. Sales of drugs to block PD-1 could reach $33 billion a year by 2022, according to Morningstar.”