The gist: A long-term study investigated the effects of new lung cancer treatments over time. They found that survival has improved for people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as new, better chemotherapy and targeted therapy treatments have been developed. The researchers also noted that survival has improved for patients who receive chemotherapy and specifically additional (“second-line”) treatment after their initial treatment.
“A 10-year population-based study shows that increased availability of better systemic chemo- and targeted-therapies for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) coincides with increased usage of these therapies. This in turn leads to a significant increase in overall survival.
“Researchers from the British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, Canada, performed a retrospective chart review of all patients referred to the agency with advanced stage (IIIB or IV) lung cancer and grouped the patients into 4 one-year time frame cohorts; one termed ‘baseline’ and three other groups that each started 6-months after a new second-line agent (docetaxel, erlotinib and pemetrexed) was made commercially available and put into practice. In British Columbia, Canada, the implementation of the second-line agents docetaxel, erlotinib and pemetrexed occurred in December 2000, October 2005 and June 2007, respectively. Cohort 1 (January to December 1998) with 555 patients was the baseline and cohort 2 (May 2001-April 2002) had 613 patients, cohort 3 (March 2006-February 2007) had 688 patients and Cohort 4 (November 2007-Ocotober 2008) had 750 patients.
“The results published in the August Issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, show that the usage of second-line therapy increased significantly over time. At baseline only 21% of the patients received second-line therapy but in Cohorts 2 and 3 this increased to 27% and 37% respectively, and by Cohort 4 more than half, 55%, received second-line therapy. The most common agent in Cohort 1 was docetaxel (48%) but by Cohort 4 erlotinib (EGFR TKIs) and pemetrexed were used 50% and 26% of the time. The research also found that the proportion of patients who received at least first-line systemic chemotherapy also increased over the four time points from 16% in Cohort 1 to 23%, 34% and 33% for Cohorts 2-4, respectively.”
“Helix BioPharma Corp. (frankfurt:HBP), a biopharmaceutical company developing innovative drug candidates for the prevention and treatment of cancer, today announced that it has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), to initiate a Phase I clinical trial with L-DOS47.
“The study is entitled “A Phase I, Open Label, Dose Escalation Study of Immunoconjugate L-DOS47 in Combination with Standard Doublet Therapy of Pemetrexed/Carboplatin in Patients with Stage IV (TNM M1a and M1b) Recurrent or Metastatic Non-Squamous Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer”.”
Editor’s note: Clinical trials can be a way for some lung cancer patients to access certain treatments they would not otherwise be able to have. Learn more.
“Updated data from the phase III AVAPERL trial hint that there might be an overall survival (OS) benefit of using bevacizumab in combination with pemetrexed as maintenance therapy in patients with advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
“ ‘The AVAPERL study was not powered to detect differences in OS between treatment arms’, Fabrice Barlesi, of Aix Marseille University in France, and colleagues observe in the Annals of Oncology.
“ ‘The analysis revealed, however, that OS was numerically increased by nearly 4 months in patients treated with maintenance bevacizumab-pemetrexed as compared with bevacizumab alone’, the international team of researchers reports.”
Editor’s Note: Maintenance therapy is “treatment that is given to help keep cancer from coming back after it has disappeared following the initial therapy. It may include treatment with drugs, vaccines, or antibodies that kill cancer cells, and it may be given for a long time,” according to the National Cancer Institute. Patients in this study were found to have longer survival times when taking a combination of the drugs bevacizumab and pemetrexed as a maintenance therapy than when taking bevacizumab alone.
The ALK inhibitor crizotinib (Xalkori) has shown effectiveness in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have changes in the ALK gene that make the gene overactive (so-called ‘ALK-positive’ patients). A recent clinical trial compared Xalkori to chemotherapy as a second-line treatment in these patients. Over 300 patients with ALK-positive advanced NSCLC who had undergone one previous round of chemotherapy were treated either with Xalkori or one of the chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed (Alimta) or docetaxel (Taxotere). Tumors shrank in 65% of Xalkori-treated patients, compared to 20% of those receiving chemotherapy. The Xalkori-treated patients also went longer without their cancer worsening, experienced fewer symptoms, and reported higher quality of life.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted regular approval to the drug crizotinib (Xalkori) for the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients who have mutations in the ALK gene. Xalkori received accelerated approval for this application in August 2011. Regular approval was awarded based on the results of a study examining patients with advanced NSCLC whose cancer had progressed despite first-line chemotherapy. Patients treated with Xalkori went an average of 7.7 months without further cancer worsening, compared to 3.0 months in those receiving the chemotherapy agents pemetrexed (Alimta) or docetaxel (Taxotere). Tumors shrank in 65% of the Xalkori-treated patients, compared to 20% with Alimta or Taxotere. However, overall survival did not differ between the Xalkori group and the chemotherapy group.
The recent PointBreak clinical trial compared two treatment regimens for non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Previously untreated patients with advanced non-squamous NSCLC received initial treatment with carboplatin (Paraplatin), bevacizumab (Avastin), and either pemetrexed (Alimta) or paclitaxel (Taxol/Abraxane). The Alimta-treated group was then given maintenance treatment with Alimta and Avastin, while the other patients received Avastin only. Alimta treatment was associated with slightly longer times until the cancer progressed again (average 6.0 months, compared to 5.6 in the Alimta-free regimen). However, overall survival did not differ between the groups. The two regimens differed in what specific side effect were most common, but had similar overall toxicities and were generally tolerable.
Patel JD, Socinski MA, Garon EB, Reynolds CH, et al. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Oct 21, 2013.
PointBreak (A Study of Pemetrexed, Carboplatin and Bevacizumab in Patients With Nonsquamous Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer) compared the efficacy and safety of pemetrexed (Pem) plus carboplatin (C) plus bevacizumab (Bev) followed by pemetrexed plus bevacizumab (PemCBev) with paclitaxel (Pac) plus carboplatin (C) plus bevacizumab (Bev) followed by bevacizumab (PacCBev) in patients with advanced nonsquamous non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Overall survival did not improve with the PemCBev regimen compared with the PacCBev regimen, although progression-free survival was significantly improved with PemCBev. Toxicity profiles differed; both regimens demonstrated tolerability.
Personalized cancer medicine uses genetic testing of patients’ tumors to guide individually tailored treatment decisions. Such tests can determine which chemotherapies would likely be most effective and whether the patient may benefit from novel drugs targeting specific mutations. One example is the case of Elizabeth Lacasia, who has advanced bronchioalveolar carcinoma, a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Testing revealed that she does not have any of the mutations targeted by the new drugs. Based on her test results, she was treated with a combination of Tarceva (erlotinib) and Alimta (pemetrexed) following an alternating schedule that has been proven effective for people with her cancer type. Her cancer has been in remission for 2 years.
Maintenance therapy with bevacizumab (Avastin) and pemetrexed (Alimta) showed promising effects in the AVAPERL phase III clinical trial. Patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were first treated with Avastin, Alimta, and cisplatin (Platinol). Those who responded to the treatment were either continued on both Avastin and Alimta or on Avastin only. Patients maintained on both drugs experienced more serious side effects, but went for longer without their cancer progressing (7.4 months on average, compared to 3.7 months for Avastin-only patients). While the study did not examine the benefits of Alimta-only maintenance treatment, the results suggest that the Avastin-Alimta combination is preferable to maintenance on Avastin only.