Super Patient: Peter Fortenbaugh Faces the Uncertainty of Pioneering Melanoma Treatment


In spring of 2014, Peter Fortenbaugh noticed what appeared to be a tick that had bitten his lower calf. “It turned out not to be a tick, but it didn’t really go away,” he says.

The spot began to grow and bulge, and in October, Peter showed it to his primary care doctor, who referred him to a dermatologist to remove it. At the time, Peter recalls, it did not occur to him that the growth could be serious.

“I was actually very concerned about skin cancer because I spent a lot of time out in the sun sailing,” Peter says. “I put on a tremendous amount of sunscreen and protection, but never on my legs…I never connected the dots.”

However, a biopsy of the growth came back positive for melanoma. Peter, who lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and three children, immediately reached out to several doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area, and all had the same advice: “Take it out, take a biopsy.” Continue reading…


Leptomeningeal Metastases Are More Common in NSCLC Patients With EGFR Mutations

Excerpt:

“Leptomeningeal metastases (LM), a devastating complication and predictor of poor survival in lung cancer patients, was found to be more prevalent in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations. Patients receiving tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) targeting EGFR mutations had a longer overall survival (OS) than those who did not receive TKIs, demonstrating the effectiveness of TKIs for LM therapy.

“The leptomeninges are the membranes that surround the brain, including the arachnoid mater and pia mater, and ensue when cancer cells metastasize to intracranial structures and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). LM occurs in 10-26% of  and the presence of LM is a devastating complication for patients and often associated with poor survival. Treatment strategies for LM include epidermal growth factor receptor  (EGFR-TKIs), chemotherapy, whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT), intrathecal chemotherapy (ITC), surgery, and ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt operations. However, therapeutic options for treating LM are challenging with no standard treatment. The use of EGFR-TKIs markedly prolong survival in patients with EGFR mutations and frequent EGFR mutations.”

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Adding Pemetrexed to Gefitinib Improves PFS in EGFR-Mutated NSCLC

Excerpt:

“The combination of pemetrexed and gefitinib offered improved progression-free survival (PFS) over gefitinib alone in East Asian patients with advanced nonsquamous non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and activating EGFR mutations, according to a new randomized, open-label study.

“EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) including gefitinib have been shown to improve outcomes in patients with EGFR-mutated NSCLC. ‘Given their different mechanisms of action, combination treatment with EGFR-TKIs and chemotherapy may further improve outcomes,’ wrote study authors led by James Chih-Hsin Yang, MD, PhD, of National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei. Previous trials of such combinations have not shown clinical benefit, however, though this could have been because of antagonism between the agents used or because wild-type EGFR patients were included.”

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ALK Mutation Variant May Affect Response to Targeted Agents

Excerpt:

“Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-targeting agents such as crizotinib may work most effectively in non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with ALK variant 1, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Because the magnitude of response as well as durations of response to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that target ALK varies among ALK-positive NSCLC patients, Tatsuya Yoshida, MD, PhD, of the Aichi Cancer Center Hospital in Japan, and colleagues assessed the efficacy of crizotinib among 35 patients whose ALK variant could be determined and who received the treatment as their initial ALK-TKI.

“Ten of the patients received crizotinib as a first-line treatment, while the majority, 18 patients, received the oral drug as a second-line therapy. The median progression-free survival (PFS) among patients in the study was 9.7 months.”

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Osimertinib Demonstrates Early Efficacy for Leptomeningeal Disease in NSCLC

Excerpt:

“Phase I findings of a study examining the efficacy of osimertinib (Tagrisso) in heavily pretreated patients with EGFR-mutated advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and leptomeningeal disease showed promising activity in the patient population.

“In the BLOOM study, which was presented during the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting, treatment with the third-generation EGFR TKI osimertinib was associated with radiologic improvement of leptomeningeal disease in 33% and neurologic improvement in patients who presented with neurologic impairment at baseline. In addition, 2 of the 21 patients (9.5%) enrolled experienced clearing of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cytology, said James Chih-Hsin Yang, MD, PhD, who announced the results.”

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Brigatinib Shows Promise in ALK-Positive NSCLC After Crizotinib Therapy

Excerpt:

“The investigational tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) brigatinib offered good response rates in a pivotal phase II trial of patients with ALK-positive non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease progressed on crizotinib. The results were presented at the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, held June 3–7 in Chicago (abstract 9007).

“ ‘Most ALK-positive NSCLC patients treated with crizotinib eventually progress, often due to acquired ALK resistance mutations and/or poor CNS drug penetration,’ said Dong-Wan Kim, MD, PhD, of Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea, who presented the study.

“Brigatinib, a next-generation ALK TKI designed to have broad activity against resistant ALK mutants, showed promising clinical activity in a phase I/II study of crizotinib-treated ALK-positive NSCLC patients. The new open-label phase II ALTA study included 222 patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC who had progressive disease on crizotinib. Patients were randomized to two brigatinib treatment regimens: group A (112 patients) received oral brigatinib 90 mg once per day, and group B (110 patients) received the same dose for 7 days followed by 180 mg once per day.”

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Pfizer Presents Promising Data from Next Generation ALK/ROS1 Inhibitor in Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced encouraging new data from a Phase 1/2 study of lorlatinib, the proposed generic name for PF-06463922, Pfizer’s investigational, next-generation ALK/ROS1 tyrosine kinase inhibitor. The study showed clinical response in patients with ALK-positive or ROS1-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), including patients with brain metastases. These data were presented today in an oral presentation at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

“The results presented are from the dose escalation component of an ongoing Phase 1 study of patients with ALK-positive or ROS1-positive NSCLC, with or without brain metastases, who were treatment-naïve or had disease progression after at least one prior tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). Among patients with ALK-positive metastatic NSCLC, the overall response rate (ORR) with lorlatinib was 46 percent, with three patients achieving complete responses and 16 patients achieving a partial response (95% CI: 31-63). The median progression free survival (PFS) was 11.4 months (95% CI: 3.4 – 16.6). The majority of patients had received two or more prior ALK TKIs. Additionally, lorlatinib showed the ability to decrease the size of brain metastases in patients with ALK-positive or ROS1-positive metastatic NSCLC.”

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Neratinib Improves DFS in HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

“Treatment with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor neratinib demonstrated a 2-year disease-free survival (DFS) rate of 93.9% in patients with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer, representing a 33% improvement compared with placebo, according to findings from the phase III ExteNET study published in The Lancet Oncology.

“In the phase III study, which was also presented at the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting, the 2-year DFS rate with placebo was 91.6% (HR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.50-0.91; P = .009). In patients with both HER2- and HR-positive disease, the 2-year DFS rate was 95.4% with neratinib and 91.2% with placebo, representing a 49% benefit (HR, 0.51; P = .001).”


Afatinib a Better Choice for EGFR-Mutated Lung Cancer in First-Line Treatment

“Patients with EGFR-activating mutations in advanced lung cancer seem to benefit more from afatinib than gefitinib as first-line treatment, researchers report at the first ESMO Asia 2015 Congress in Singapore.

“In the global, randomised, open-label Phase IIb LUX-Lung 7 (LL7) trial, the irreversible ErbB family blocker afatinib significantly improved efficacy versus gefitinib across a range of clinically relevant endpoints, such as progression-free survival, time-to- failure and objective response rate. ‘Based on these results I would consider afatinib as the EGFR (TKI) of choice for the first-line treatment for patients with EGFR mutation-positive non-small-cell (NSCLC),’ lead author, Professor Keunchil Park, head of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea, said.”