Arteries Better than Veins for Liquid Biopsy

“As the field of liquid biopsies for tracking disease progression and therapeutic response heats up, many doctors are looking for ways to apply this approach to their patients. Currently, assays for circulating tumor cells (CTCs) – one type of liquid biopsy – have been approved for diagnostic purposes in metastatic breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer. In these diseases, the presence of CTCs in the peripheral blood is associated with decreased progression-free survival and decreased overall survival. The major challenge for this technology is that CTCs are not always found in the blood of patients with aggressive disease who would be expected to have high numbers. Now, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University investigating uveal melanoma, a type of melanoma that originates in the eye, have shown that the low numbers could simply be explained by where the blood is drawn – whether from a vein or an artery.”


Everolimus Improves Progression-Free Survival for Patients with Advanced, Nonfuctional Neuroendocrine Tumors

“In an international Phase III randomized study, everolimus, an inhibitor of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), has shown to dramatically improve progression-free survival for patients with advanced, nonfunctional neuroendocrine tumors (NET) of the lung and gastrointestinal tract.

“James C. Yao, M.D., professor and chair, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, presented the findings today in Vienna, Austria during the presidential session of the European Cancer Congress, co-sponsored by the European Cancer Organisation and European Society for Medical Oncology.

“NETs develop from cells in the neuroendocrine system, which is responsible for producing specific hormones that regulate the functions of different organs in the body. NETs can be slow-growing or aggressive, and are found most commonly in the lungs or gastrointestinal system. Nonfuctional NETs are those that do not secrete a hormone. About 80 percent of all NETs are nonfunctional, and therefore, patients often have few side effects and are diagnosed later, explains Yao.”


Rare Cancer Responds Unusually Well to New Treatment

“Vienna, Austria: Patients with advanced gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) have limited treatment options and there are few oncologists who are specialised in this relatively rare disease. But now results from a multi-centre randomised international trial of an innovative treatment show a marked improvement in the length of time patients with mid-gut NETs live without the disease getting worse (progression-free survival, or PFS), researchers will report to the 2015 European Cancer Congress today.

“Professor Philippe Ruszniewski, MD, Head of the Department of Gastroenterology-Pancreatology, Beaujon Hospital, Clichy, France, who is also a Professor at Paris Diderot University, will tell the Congress that results of the NETTER-1 phase III trial of 177Lu-DOTATATE (Lutathera) show a PFS that has never been shown before in this type of cancer. “Because these patients have a real unmet medical need, this is particularly pleasing for us,” he says.

“Lutathera is a member of the family of novel treatments called Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRTs) which involve targeting tumours with radiolabelled somatostatin analogue (SSA) peptides. The technique belongs to the larger family of molecular nuclear medicine, where trace amounts of active substances, or radiopharmaceuticals, are used to create images and to treat various diseases including cancer. SSAs are widely used in gastrointestinal NETs cancer to reduce symptoms such as diarrhoea.”


Drug Combination Improves Progression-Free Survival in Melanoma Patients

“Patients with advanced melanoma skin cancer survive for longer without their disease progressing if they have been treated with a combination of two drugs, nivolumab and ipilimumab, than with either of these drugs alone. New results show that these patients also do better regardless of their age, stage of disease and whether or not they have a cancer-driving mutation in the BRAF gene.

“Dr James Larkin, a Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, London, UK, told the 2015 European Cancer Congress, that results from the CheckMate 067 phase III clinical trial had already shown that the combination of the two drugs, which target two different pathways that regulate the immune system, improved the progression-free survival in patients with melanoma who had not received any other treatment. However, until now it was not known whether this remained the case when the results were analysed according to genetic status, age and how advanced was their disease.

“Nivolumab is an inhibitor of the protein 1 (known as PD-1), which functions as an immune checkpoint, playing an important role in the immune system. Ipilimumab inhibits the CTLA-4 checkpoint, which also plays a role in the immune system.”


AstraZeneca Presents Further Evidence for the Potential of AZD9291 in First-Line and Pre-Treated Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

“AstraZeneca today announced updated data on AZD9291 in first-line patients with epidermal growth factor receptor mutation (EGFRm) positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and previously-treated patients with EGFRm T790M mutation-positive NSCLC. The data being presented today at the World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) 2015 were from the AURA Phase I trial first-line cohort and two AURA Phase II studies.

“Data demonstrated that in 60 patients who received AZD9291 once daily in the first-line setting, 72% (95% confidence interval (CI) 58% to 82%) were progression free (PFS) at 12 months. Confirmed overall response rate (ORR) was 75% (95% CI 62% to 85%). The longest duration of response (DoR) was ongoing at 18 months.

“ ‘While the data are still preliminary, these latest results from the AURA trial first-line cohort further reinforce the potential of AZD9291 in treatment-naïve EGFRm advanced NSCLC patients,’ said Professor Suresh S. Ramalingam, presenting author of the AURA trial first-line cohort data and Chief of Thoracic Oncology and Director of Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.”


No Benefit of Adding Gefitinib to Platinum-Based Doublet in EGFR-Mutant NSCLC After Progression on First-Line Gefitinib

“In a phase III IMPRESS trial reported in The Lancet Oncology, Soria et al found no progression-free survival benefit of adding gefitinib (Iressa) to platinum-based doublet chemotherapy in patients with advanced EGFR-mutant non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who had acquired resistance to first-line gefitinib.

“In the double-blind trial, 265 chemotherapy-naive patients from 11 countries who had stage IIIB to IV EGFR-mutant disease and disease control with first-line gefitinib and recent disease progression took part. They were randomly assigned between March 2012 and December 2013 to receive cisplatin 75 mg/m2 plus pemetrexed (Alimta) 500 mg/m2 on the first day of a maximum of six chemotherapy cycles plus either daily gefitinib 250 mg (n = 133) or placebo (n = 132) continued until disease progression or discontinuation for other reasons…

“The investigators concluded: ‘Continuation of gefitinib after radiological disease progression on first-line gefitinib did not prolong progression-free survival in patients who received platinum-based doublet chemotherapy as subsequent line of treatment. Platinum-based doublet chemotherapy remains the standard of care in this setting.’ ”


Afatinib Improves Progression-Free Survival vs Erlotinib in Second-Line Treatment of Advanced Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lung

“In the phase III LUX-Lung 8 trial reported in The Lancet Oncology, Soria et al found that the irreversible ErbB-family inhibitor afatinib (Gilotrif) significantly improved progression-free and overall survival vs the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib as second-line treatment in patients with stage IIIB or IV squamous cell carcinoma of the lung who had disease progression after four or more cycles of platinum-based chemotherapy.

“In this open-label trial, 795 patients from 23 countries were randomly assigned between March 2012 and January 2014 to receive afatinib at 40 mg/d (n =398) or erlotinib at 150 mg/d (n = 397). The primary endpoint was progression-free survival on independent central review in the intent-to-treat population…

“The investigators concluded: ‘The significant improvements in progression-free survival and overall survival with afatinib compared with erlotinib, along with a manageable safety profile and the convenience of oral administration suggest that afatinib could be an additional option for the treatment of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the lung.’ “


Palbociclib's Role in Endocrine-Resistant Breast Cancer

“Palbociclib (Ibrance, Pfizer), the first CDK4/6 inhibitor to be approved for the treatment of breast cancer, has been welcomed by experts for its role in improving outcomes in patients with endocrine-resistant breast cancer.

“The drug should a significant improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) when it was added to fulvestrant (Faslodex, AstraZeneca) in the phase 3 PALOMA 3 trial, as reported recently by Medscape Medical News. The addition of palbociclib to fulvestrant increased median PFS to 9.2 months in patients with estrogen receptor (ER)–positive/HER2-negative endocrine-resistant breast cancer compared with 3.8 months in the placebo-fulvestrant group (P < .001).

“The overall survival data are still immature.

“The full results have now been published in print in the July 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


Pembrolizumab Increases Progression-Free Survival vs Chemotherapy in Ipilimumab-Refractory Advanced Melanoma

“In a randomized phase II KEYNOTE-002 trial reported in The Lancet Oncology, Ribas et al found that treatment with the anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab (Keytruda) prolonged progression-free survival vs investigator-choice chemotherapy in patients with advanced melanoma progressing on ipilimumab (Yervoy) and, if BRAF V600 mutant–positive, a BRAF or MEK inhibitor.

“The open-label trial included 540 patients from 12 countries with progressive disease within 24 weeks after two or more ipilimumab doses and, if BRAF V600 mutant–positive, previous treatment with a BRAF or MEK inhibitor or both. Patients were randomly assigned 1:1:1 between November 2012 and November 2013 to receive pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg (n = 180) or 10 mg/kg (n = 181) every 3 weeks or investigator-choice chemotherapy (n = 179, including 42 to paclitaxel plus carboplatin, 28 to paclitaxel, 13 to carboplatin, 45 to dacarbazine, and 43 to temozolomide)…

“The investigators concluded: ‘These findings establish pembrolizumab as a new standard of care for the treatment of ipilimumab-refractory melanoma.’ “