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.”


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 Improves the Proportion of Lung Cancer Patients Alive After More than a Year

“Patients with a type of lung cancer called non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (non-SQ NSCLC) have limited treatment options and a dismal prognosis once their disease has advanced and initial treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy has failed. Second-line treatment is usually with another chemotherapy drug, such as docetaxel or pemetrexed.

“Recent results have shown that the drug, nivolumab, improves survival for these and now updated results from the CheckMate 057 phase III clinical trial, to be reported at the 2015 European Cancer Congress today (Monday) with simultaneous publication of the study results in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that nivolumab continues to show an overall survival benefit compared to . Among patients randomised to receive nivolumab, significantly more were alive at 12 months compared to those treated with docetaxel – 51% versus 39% respectively – and a difference in survival remains at 18 months – 39% for nivolumab versus 23% for docetaxel.

“This improvement in survival was observed for all patients included in the trial, but nivolumab was more effective in patients whose tumours expressed a protein called programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), which plays a role in the immune system’s ability to recognise and attack tumours and has been correlated with response to immune checkpoint inhibitors such as nivolumab.”


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…