Immunotherapy Continues Rapid Advance in NSCLC

“Immunotherapy in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is rapidly progressing—and it won’t be slowing down anytime soon, says Naiyer Rizvi, MD.

“ ‘The field is changing so fast,’ says Rizvi, director of Thoracic Oncology and Immunotherapeutics at Columbia University Medical Center. ‘Soon, we will have a better understanding of the first-line use of PD-1 agents, Then, maybe a year later, the data on the combination of PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 will come out. It is going to be a busy year. The NCCN is going to be busy rewriting their guidelines every 6 months at this rate.’ ”

“Several immunotherapeutic agents are also being investigated in new combinations and earlier settings.”


AZ Cancer Immunotherapy Combo Impresses in Lung Cancer Trial

“Two immuno-oncology drugs in development at AstraZeneca (AZ) have shown potential as a dual therapy for non-small cell lung cancer, according to a new study.

“The phase II trial – reported in Lancet Oncology – found that combining anti-PD-L1 antibody durvalumab with anti-CTLA-4 antibody tremelimumab achieved an overall response rate (ORR) of 23%, significantly higher than has previously been seen with durvalumab alone in this setting.

“The trial was small and focused primarily on safety, but the preliminary efficacy signal – albeit in just 26 patients – is encouraging, according to an editorial accompanying the study by Edward Garon of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.”


Putting Immune Checkpoint Blockade to the Test in Breast Cancer


About 10 months ago, we asked: Is There a Future for Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer? Now, we can answer this question with a qualified “yes.” The data show why:

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)

TNBC has long been considered to be more amenable to immune system-based treatments than other types of breast cancer because it is more immunogenic; that is, relatively high levels of immune cells accumulate within or adjacent to TNBC tumors. These immune cells could be triggered to attack tumors if properly activated. TNBC tumors are also likely to have a higher mutational burden (number of genetic mutations). This is one of the predictors of sensitivity to a type of treatment called immune checkpoint blockade.  Drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors block the proteins PD-1 or PD-L1. In cancer, PD-L1 proteins on tumor cells bind to PD-1 proteins on immune T cells and inhibit their tumor-killing activity. Immune checkpoint drugs disable this interaction and enable activation of T cells. These drugs are actively being explored in TNBC in clinical trials.

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Atezolizumab Continues To Show Potential in NSCLC

“With atezolizumab (MPDL3280A) showing great potential as a treatment for patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in two particlar studies, we sat down with Chandra P. Belani, MD, to talk more about the treatment.

“The PD-L1 inhibitor received a breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA based on early-stage studies as a potential treatment for patients with PD-L1–positive NSCLC, post-progression on prior therapies such as chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Belani, Miriam Beckner Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, deputy director, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, said in an interview with Targeted Oncology, that the acitivity the treatment shows is impressive.”


Nivolumab Combined with Radiation Therapy May Be New Treatment Option for Patients with Melanoma Brain Metastases, Say Moffitt Cancer Center Researchers

“President Jimmy Carter’s battle with metastatic melanoma to the brain has placed increased attention on management of this disease. President Carter was treated with focused stereotactic radiation to the brain and anti-PD-1 therapy. Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center recently reported the first series of patients treated with this combined modality approach. They found that radiation therapy combined with the immune-targeting drug nivolumab in melanoma patients with brain metastases is safe and improves their survival compared to historical data.

“Nivolumab is a therapeutic agent that targets a protein on immune cells called PD-1. Binding of PD-1 to its ligand PD-L1, which is found on tumor cells, causes immune cells to decrease their activity and allows cancer cells to escape immune detection and cell death.  Nivolumab blocks the PD-1/PD-L1 interaction and restimulates the body’s own immune system to target tumor cells. Nivolumab has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, and melanoma; however, the impact of nivolumab on brain metastases is unclear.”


Video: Dr. Saeed Rafii on the Phase Ib JAVELIN Trial Examining Avelumab in Breast Cancer

“Saeed Rafii, MD, PhD, MRCP, medical oncologist, medical director, Sarah Cannon Research Institute, London, discusses the phase Ib JAVELIN solid tumor trial. The trial looks at the anti-PD-L1 antibody avelumab (MSB0010718C) in patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Rafii said the trial looked at 168 patients, regardless of the subtype of their breast cancer.

“Patients enrolled in the trial must have had 3 or fewer lines of chemotherapy prior to receieving avelumab. Rafii said of the patients, 10% experiences immune-related events. He also added that 8 patients had to stop due to treatment-related toxicities and that there were 2 mortalities. One of the 2 mortalities were from acute hepatic failure and another from respitority distress.”

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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).”


Checkpoint Inhibitors Show Promise in SCLC, Mesothelioma

“Immune checkpoint inhibitors have demonstrated encouraging results for patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and mesothelioma, two aggressive thoracic malignancies with few options, according to a presentation by M. Catherine Pietanza, MD, at the 10th Annual New York Lung Cancer Symposium.

“ ‘The antibodies to CTLA-4, PD-1, and PD-L1 can be safely given to these patients. Responses are seen and are durable. There is a benefit in both platinum-sensitive and platinum-refractory SCLC,’ said Pietanza, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“Chemotherapy has traditionally been the treatment of choice for most patients with SCLC and mesothelioma beyond the frontline setting. However, outcomes are poor with these therapies, specifically for SCLC, where the median survival following second-line therapy ranges from 6 to 9 months.”