Boehringer's Giotrif Beats Roche's Tarceva on Lung Cancer Survival

“Boehringer Ingelheim’s Giotrif has shown a greater survival benefit than Roche’s Tarceva in previously-treated patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the lung.

“According to data from the LUX-Lung 8 trial, published in The Lancet Oncology, Giotrif (afatinib) extended overall survival to a median of 7.9 months compared to 6.8 months on Tarceva (erlotinib), reducing the risk of death by 19%.

“The study also met its primary endpoint showing a significant improvement in progression-free survival over Tarceva, which is an approved and recommended treatment option for advanced SCC of the lung following treatment with first-line platinum-based chemotherapy.”

Prognostic Factors Identified for Peripheral Squamous Cell Carcinomas of the Lung

The gist: Some people diagnosed with early-stage peripheral lung squamous cell carcinoma (p-SCC) might have lower chances of survival than others. Scientists have now uncovered new ways of predicting a p-SCC patient’s chances of survival. The scientists say that research should be done to see whether p-SCC patients with lower chances of survival might benefit from chemotherapy after tumor-removal surgery.

“Better survival outcome is associated with low blood levels of squamous cell carcinoma antigen, or absence of tumor invasion either into the space between the lungs and chest wall or into blood vessels of individuals with a peripheral squamous cell carcinoma, a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide and lung squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) account for 20-30% of all NSCLC. SCC can be classified as either central (c-SCC) or peripheral (p-SCC) depending on the primary location. While c-SCC is the most prevalent, the incidence of p-SCC is increasing and the clinical and biological behaviors of p-SCC remain unclear.

“Researchers from Keio University School of Medicine and Saiseikai Utsunomiya Hospital in Japan evaluated several clinical and pathological variables in 280 patients with surgically removed p-SCC in order to identify potential prognostic factors…

“The authors propose that ‘patients with high serum SCC levels, vascular invasion or pleural invasion should have their tumor stage upgraded in order to reflect the clear differences in survival. Clinical trials should be performed to evaluate if postoperative chemotherapy would benefit these patients who typically may not receive chemotherapy because of their early stage.’ “

A New Tool to Confront Lung Cancer

“Only 15% of patients with squamous cell lung cancer – the second most common lung cancer – survive five years past diagnosis. Little is understood about how the deadly disease arises, preventing development of targeted therapies that could serve as a second line of defense once standard chemotherapy regimens fail.

“Published online in Cell Reports on June 19, Huntsman Cancer Institute investigators report that misregulation of two genes, sox2 and lkb1, drives squamous cell lung cancer in mice. The discovery uncovers new treatment strategies, and provides a clinically relevant mouse model in which to test them.”

Editor’s note: Some tumors have specific genetic mutations that can allow them to be treated with drugs known as targeted therapies. Studying mice with squamous cell lung cancer tumors, scientists have now discovered two new tumor mutations that open up the possibility for new drugs to be developed for humans. The mutations also indicate that some drugs that already exist for other cancers may be used to treat people with squamous cell lung cancer. More investigation is required before the results of these findings might translate to treatments for patients.

Sex, Age, Race Affected SCC Risk Among Melanoma Patients

“Approximately 12% of patients with melanoma developed subsequent squamous cell carcinoma, and the occurrence was more common among men, whites, older patients and those with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, according to recent study results.

“Researchers studied 6,378 Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) members (mean age, 60.9 years; 56.6% men) who received a melanoma diagnosis between 2000 and 2005. The patients were followed through 2009, with 1,462 meeting criteria for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) pathology review. There were 766 patients with defined SCC (69.7% men).”

Innate Pharma SA begins Phase I Trial with Lirilumab and Nivolumab in Selected Solid Tumors Under Cohort Expansion

“Biopharmaceutical company Innate Pharma SA (euronext paris:FR0010331421) reported on Monday that it has started the cohort expansion portion of the Phase I clinical trial testing the combination of the two investigational checkpoint inhibitors lirilumab and nivolumab in selected solid tumors…

“The company said the trial will test lirilumab (anti-KIR checkpoint inhibitor; BMS-986015) in combination with nivolumab (anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor BMS-936558) in solid tumors. The Phase I open label study will evaluate the safety of the combination of lirilumab and nivolumab and to provide preliminary information on the clinical activity of the combination. The primary outcome is safety.”

Editor’s note: Nivolumab is an immunotherapy drug that activates the immune system’s T cells in the hopes that the patient’s own immune system will be prompted to fight tumors. Nivolumab has already been shown to be a promising melanoma treatment on its own. Lirilumab is a drug that activates a different group of immune system cells known as natural killer cells (NK). This clinical trial combines both drugs to see if they work better together.

Lung Cancer Clinical Trial Debuts New Approach to Genetic Testing in Cancer Studies

Targeted therapies directed at specific cancer mutations have drastically improved cancer treatment for many patients. However, most targetable mutations occur only in a small percentage of patients, which complicates clinical trial logistics. Investigators can expect to test around 140 individuals to find one who is eligible for their trial. Conversely, patients may have to undergo scores of tests to discover which mutations they do or do not carry. Now, a new clinical trial, nicknamed ‘the Master Protocol,’ is pioneering a new approach that uses new, fast DNA sequencing technology to circumvent these problems. Patients with squamous cell lung cancer will undergo a single test that scans for 16 different mutations. They will then be assigned to different drug regimens depending on which mutations they have. Those without any of the targeted mutations will receive a drug that directs their immune system to attack the cancer.

Lung Cancer Drug Retaspimycin Fails Clinical Trial

A phase II clinical trial found no survival benefit for the lung cancer drug retaspimycin in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The trial examined NSCLC patients with a history of smoking who were given the chemotherapy agent docetaxel (Taxotere) either with or without retaspimycin. Adding retaspimycin did not improve overall survival in NSCLC patients in general or in the subset of patients with squamous cell carcinoma (a type of NSCLC closely linked to smoking). The company will complete enrollment in a separate study investigating retaspimycin in combination with everolimus (Afinitor) by the end of 2013, but will begin no further clinical trials with retaspimycin.

New Cancer Drug Reolysin Shrinks Lung Tumors

Interim results from a phase II clinical trial of the new cancer drug Reolysin in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the lung, a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), show that tumors shrank in 23 of 25 patients. The patients had SCC that had spread from its original site, or recurred after treatment, and were treated with the chemotherapy drugs Paraplatin (carboplatin) and Taxol/Abraxane (paclitaxel) in addition to Reolysin. Ten patients experienced tumor shrinkage and 13 experienced stable disease, while the cancer progressed in 2 patients. On average, tumors shrank by a third of their original size. Reolysin consists of a modified form of a virus that selectively attacks cancer cells, while producing no symptoms in most healthy people.

Researchers Identify Potential New Target in SCLC Treatment

Collagen, the main building block of skin and tendons, can also contribute to suppressing cancer growth. DDR2, one of the proteins that collagen interacts with, is mutated in some cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the lung, a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Researchers have found that when DDR2 is activated by collagen, it in turn activates a protein called SHP-2. It also prevents cell cultures from forming clusters, a model of tumor formation. However, mutant forms of DDR2 that occur in SCC, did not have this effect on cell cultures, and some also did not activate SHP-2, suggesting that lack of SHP-2 activation may contribute to SCC. Drugs that mimic the activity of SHP-2 may offer targeted treatments for SCC.