Publications by authors named "Adi Diab"

92 Publications

A Phase I, Open-Label, Dose-Escalation Study of the OX40 Agonist Ivuxolimab in Patients With Locally Advanced or Metastatic Cancers.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 Oct 6. Epub 2021 Oct 6.

Division of Medical Oncology, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Purpose: Stimulation of effector T cells is an appealing immunotherapeutic approach in oncology. OX40 (CD134) is a co-stimulatory receptor expressed on activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Induction of OX40 following antigen recognition results in enhanced T-cell activation, proliferation, and survival, and OX40 targeting shows therapeutic efficacy in preclinical studies. We report the monotherapy dose-escalation portion of a multicenter, phase I trial (NCT02315066) of ivuxolimab (PF-04518600), a fully human immunoglobulin G2 agonistic monoclonal antibody specific for human OX40.

Experimental Design: Adult patients ( = 52) with selected locally advanced or metastatic cancers received ivuxolimab 0.01-10 mg/kg. Primary endpoints were safety and tolerability. Secondary/exploratory endpoints included preliminary assessment of antitumor activity, and biomarker analyses.

Results: The most common all-causality adverse events were fatigue (46.2%), nausea (28.8%), and decreased appetite (25.0%). Of 31 treatment-related adverse events, 30 (96.8%) were grade {less than or equal to}2. No dose-limiting toxicities occurred. Ivuxolimab exposure increased in a dose-proportionate manner from 0.3 to 10 mg/kg. Full peripheral blood target engagement occurred at {greater than or equal to}0.3 mg/kg. Three (5.8%) patients achieved a partial response, and disease control was achieved in 56% of patients. Increased CD4+ central memory T-cell proliferation and activation, and clonal expansion of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in peripheral blood were observed at 0.1 to 3.0 mg/kg. Increased immune cell infiltrate and OX40 expression were evident in on-treatment tumor biopsies.

Conclusions: Ivuxolimab was generally well tolerated with on-target immune activation at clinically relevant doses, showed preliminary anti-tumor activity, and may serve as a partner for combination studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-0845DOI Listing
October 2021

Current strategies for intratumoural immunotherapy - Beyond immune checkpoint inhibition.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Sep 21. Epub 2021 Sep 21.

Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA, 02215, USA. Electronic address:

Immunotherapy has revolutionised cancer treatment through restoration of host antitumour immune response. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) confer durable responses in only a subset of patients. Mechanisms of ICI resistance to improve durable response rates and overall survival are an area of intense clinical research. Robust clinical development is ongoing to evaluate novel combination therapies to overcome ICI resistance, including targeting immunoregulatory pathways in the tumour microenvironment. Intratumoural (IT) immunotherapies such as toll-like receptor agonists, stimulator of interferon-induced gene agonists, retinoic-inducible gene I-like receptor agonists and oncolytic viruses may represent potential combination treatment options to overcome ICI resistance. Use of IT immunotherapies in combination with ICIs may alter the tumour microenvironment to address resistance mechanisms and improve antitumour response. Optimisation of IT immunotherapy clinical trials will elucidate resistance mechanisms, facilitate clinical trial design, define pharmacodynamic predictors that identify patients who may most benefit and inform clinical development of combination immunotherapy regimens. Here we provide an overview of IT immunotherapy principles, mechanisms of action, categories of IT immunotherapeutics, emerging data, clinical development strategies, response assessment, dose and schedule determination, clinical trial design and translational study design.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.08.004DOI Listing
September 2021

Bempegaldesleukin Plus Nivolumab in First-Line Metastatic Melanoma.

J Clin Oncol 2021 Sep 13;39(26):2914-2925. Epub 2021 Jul 13.

Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

Purpose: Therapies that produce deep and durable responses in patients with metastatic melanoma are needed. This phase II cohort from the international, single-arm PIVOT-02 study evaluated the CD122-preferential interleukin-2 pathway agonist bempegaldesleukin (BEMPEG) plus nivolumab (NIVO) in first-line metastatic melanoma.

Methods: A total of 41 previously untreated patients with stage III/IV melanoma received BEMPEG 0.006 mg/kg plus NIVO 360 mg once every 3 weeks for ≤ 2 years; 38 were efficacy-evaluable (≥ 1 postbaseline scan). Primary end points were safety and objective response rate (blinded independent central review); other end points included progression-free survival, overall survival (OS), and exploratory biomarkers.

Results: At 29.0 months' median follow-up, the objective response rate was 52.6% (20 of 38 patients), and the complete response rate was 34.2% (13 of 38 patients). Median change in size of target lesions from baseline was -78.5% (response-evaluable population); 47.4% (18 of 38 patients) experienced complete clearance of target lesions. Median progression-free survival was 30.9 months (95% CI, 5.3 to not estimable). Median OS was not reached; the 24-month OS rate was 77.0% (95% CI, 60.4 to 87.3). Grade 3 and 4 treatment-related and immune-mediated adverse events occurred in 17.1% (7 of 41) and 4.9% (2 of 41) of patients, respectively. Increased polyfunctional responses in CD8+ and CD4+ T cells were seen in blood after treatment, driven by cytokines with effector functions. Early on-treatment blood biomarkers (CD8+ polyfunctional strength difference and eosinophils) correlated with treatment response.

Conclusion: BEMPEG in combination with NIVO was tolerated, with relatively low rates of grade 3 and 4 treatment-related and immune-mediated adverse events. The combination had encouraging antitumor activity in first-line metastatic melanoma, including an extended median progression-free survival. Exploratory analyses associated noninvasive, on-treatment biomarkers with response, before radiologic evidence was observed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.21.00675DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8425826PMC
September 2021

Gut microbiota signatures are associated with toxicity to combined CTLA-4 and PD-1 blockade.

Nat Med 2021 08 8;27(8):1432-1441. Epub 2021 Jul 8.

Department of Surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA.

Treatment with combined immune checkpoint blockade (CICB) targeting CTLA-4 and PD-1 is associated with clinical benefit across tumor types, but also a high rate of immune-related adverse events. Insights into biomarkers and mechanisms of response and toxicity to CICB are needed. To address this, we profiled the blood, tumor and gut microbiome of 77 patients with advanced melanoma treated with CICB, with a high rate of any ≥grade 3 immune-related adverse events (49%) with parallel studies in pre-clinical models. Tumor-associated immune and genomic biomarkers of response to CICB were similar to those identified for ICB monotherapy, and toxicity from CICB was associated with a more diverse peripheral T-cell repertoire. Profiling of gut microbiota demonstrated a significantly higher abundance of Bacteroides intestinalis in patients with toxicity, with upregulation of mucosal IL-1β in patient samples of colitis and in pre-clinical models. Together, these data offer potential new therapeutic angles for targeting toxicity to CICB.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41591-021-01406-6DOI Listing
August 2021

High-dose irradiation in combination with non-ablative low-dose radiation to treat metastatic disease after progression on immunotherapy: Results of a phase II trial.

Radiother Oncol 2021 Sep 5;162:60-67. Epub 2021 Jul 5.

Translational Molecular Pathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA.

Aim: To report early findings from a phase II trial of high-dose radiotherapy (HD-RT) with or without low-dose RT (LD-RT) for metastatic cancer.

Methods: Eligible patients had metastatic disease that progressed on immunotherapy within 6 months. Patients were given either HD-RT (20-70 Gy total; 3-12.5 Gy/f), or HD-RT + LD-RT (0.5-2 Gy/f up to 1-10 Gy total) to separate lesions, with continued immunotherapy. Radiographic response was assessed per RECIST 1.1 and Immune-Related Response Criteria (irRC). Primary endpoints: (1) 4-month disease control (DCR, complete/partial response [CR/PR] or stable disease [SD]) or an overall response (ORR, CR/PR) at any point in ≥10% of patients, per RECIST 1.1; (2) dose-limiting toxicity within 3 months not exceeding 30%. Secondary endpoint was lesion-specific response.

Results: Seventy-four patients (NSCLC, n = 38; melanoma n = 21) were analyzed (39 HD-RT and 35 HD-RT + LD-RT). The median follow-up time was 13.6 months. The primary endpoint was met for 72 evaluable patients, with a 4-month DCR of 42% (47% [16/34] vs. 37% [14/38] in HD-RT + LD-RT vs. HD-RT, P = 0.38), and 19% ORR at any time (26% [9/34] vs. 13% [5/38] in HD-RT + LD-RT vs. HD-RT, P = 0.27). Three patients had toxicity ≥grade 3. LD-RT lesion response (53%) was improved compared to nonirradiated lesions in HD-RT + LD-RT (23%, P = 0.002) and HD-RT (11%, P < 0.001). T- and NK cell infiltration was enhanced in lesions treated with LD-RT.

Conclusions: HD-RT plus LD-RT safely improved lesion-specific response in patients with immune resistant solid tumors by promoting infiltration of effector immune cells into the tumor microenvironment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.radonc.2021.06.037DOI Listing
September 2021

Standard-Dose Pembrolizumab Plus Alternate-Dose Ipilimumab in Advanced Melanoma: KEYNOTE-029 Cohort 1C, a Phase 2 Randomized Study of Two Dosing Schedules.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 Jul 1. Epub 2021 Jul 1.

Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Purpose: Standard-dose pembrolizumab plus alternative-dose ipilimumab (1 mg/kg Q3W for 4 doses) were tolerable and had robust antitumor activity in advanced melanoma in cohort B of the phase 1 KEYNOTE-029 study. Cohort C evaluated standard-dose pembrolizumab with two other alternative ipilimumab regimens.

Patients And Methods: Patients with treatment-naive unresectable stage III/IV melanoma were randomly assigned 1:1 to pembrolizumab 200 mg Q3W for ≤24 months plus ipilimumab 50 mg Q6W for 4 doses (PEM200+IPI50), or the same pembrolizumab regimen plus ipilimumab 100 mg Q12W for 4 doses (PEM200+IPI100). Primary end points were incidence of grade 3-5 treatment-related adverse events (TRAE) and objective response rate (ORR) per RECIST v1.1 by independent central review. Per protocol-defined thresholds, grade 3-5 TRAE incidence ≤26% indicated meaningful toxicity reduction and ORR ≥48% indicated no decrease in efficacy versus data reported for other PD-1 inhibitor/ipilimumab combinations.

Results: Median follow-up on February 18, 2019, was 16.3 months in PEM200+IPI50 ( = 51) and 16.4 months in PEM200+IPI100 ( = 51). Grade 3-5 TRAEs occurred in 12 (24%) patients in PEM200+IPI50 and 20 (39%) in PEM200+IPI100. One patient in PEM200+IPI50 died from treatment-related autoimmune myocarditis. Immune-mediated AEs or infusion reactions occurred in 21 (42%) patients in PEM200+IPI50 and 28 (55%) in PEM200+IPI100. ORR was 55% in PEM200+IPI50; 61% in PEM200+IPI100.

Conclusions: Pembrolizumab 200 mg Q3W plus ipilimumab 50 mg Q6W or 100 mg Q12W demonstrated antitumor activity above the predefined threshold; pembrolizumab plus ipilimumab 50 mg Q6W had lower incidence of grade 3-5 TRAEs than the predefined threshold, suggesting a reduction in toxicity..
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-0793DOI Listing
July 2021

Incidence, predictors, and survival impact of acute kidney injury in patients with melanoma treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors: a 10-year single-institution analysis.

Oncoimmunology 2021 05 23;10(1):1927313. Epub 2021 May 23.

Section of Nephrology, Division of Internal Medicine, Section of Nephrology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.

: The incidence of renal immune-related adverse events (irAEs) is reported to be 3.8%, with varied definitions of acute kidney injury (AKI). This study reports a 10-year experience at MD Anderson Cancer Center of patients diagnosed with melanoma and treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) and evaluated the incidence of AKI, associated factors, and its association with overall survival. : A retrospective chart review (2010-2019) of all patients with melanoma treated with ipilimumab, nivolumab, pembrolizumab, or atezolizumab was performed. All available serum creatinine data were extracted and used to calculate the estimated GFR (eGFR) using the CKD Epi equation, and to diagnose AKI using the two KDIGO (Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes) criteria for defining stage I AKI in 1664 unique patients. Cumulative incidence rates of AKI after initiation of ICIs were calculated in the presence of death as a competing risk. The effects of covariates on the cumulative incidence function of AKI were evaluated in a univariant and multivariable analysis. Overall survival was estimated by Kaplan-Meier method in accordance to the occurrence of AKI. : The incidence of AKI by definitions 1a and 1b were 3.49% and 3.33%, respectively. After adjudication, AKI attributable to ICI was 58% and 65% of the overall incidence of AKI in each definition respectively. Increasing age was associated with decreased risk of AKI. Asian race was associated with a higher risk of AKI. Comorbidities were not associated with increased risk of AKI while use of proton pump inhibitors (PPI), ipilimumab or ICI combinations were significantly associated with AKI. AKI was not significantly associated with overall survival. Immune-related adverse events (irAEs) occurred in 30% of patients with AKI but their incidence was not different in patients with AKI attributable to ICI versus other AKI. : In a large population of patients with melanoma treated with ICIs, an accurate documentation of AKI in setting of ICI use and predictors associated is presented. AKI following ICI use is infrequent, not associated with mortality, and associated with the use of ipilimumab, ICI combinations and PPIs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2162402X.2021.1927313DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8158025PMC
May 2021

Randomized phase II trial of lymphodepletion plus adoptive cell transfer of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, with or without dendritic cell vaccination, in patients with metastatic melanoma.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 05;9(5)

Melanoma Medical Onoclogy, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

Background: The adoptive transfer of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) has demonstrated robust efficacy in metastatic melanoma patients. Tumor antigen-loaded dendritic cells (DCs) are believed to optimally activate antigen-specific T lymphocytes. We hypothesized that the combined transfer of TIL, containing a melanoma antigen recognized by T cells 1 (MART-1) specific population, with MART-1-pulsed DC will result in enhanced proliferation and prolonged survival of transferred MART-1 specific T cells in vivo ultimately leading to improved clinical responses.

Design: We tested the combination of TIL and DC in a phase II clinical trial of patients with advanced stage IV melanoma. HLA-A0201 patients whose early TIL cultures demonstrated reactivity to MART-1 peptide were randomly assigned to receive TIL alone or TIL +DC pulsed with MART-1 peptide. The primary endpoint was to evaluate the persistence of MART-1 TIL in the two arms. Secondary endpoints were to evaluate clinical response and survival.

Results: Ten patients were given TIL alone while eight patients received TIL+DC vaccine. Infused MART-1 reactive CD8 TIL were tracked in the blood over time by flow cytometry and results show good persistence in both arms, with no difference in the persistence of MART-1 between the two arms. The objective response rate was 30% (3/10) in the TIL arm and 50% (4/8) in the TIL+DC arm. All treatments were well tolerated.

Conclusions: The combination of TIL +DC showed no difference in the persistence of MART-1 TIL compared with TIL therapy alone. Although more patients showed a clinical response to TIL+DC therapy, this study was not powered to resolve differences between groups.

Trial Registration Number: NCT00338377.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2021-002449DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8144048PMC
May 2021

Cytokines in the Treatment of Melanoma.

Curr Oncol Rep 2021 05 18;23(7):83. Epub 2021 May 18.

Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, 77030, USA.

Purpose Of Review: The use of cytokines in harnessing the immune system to eradicate cancer has been an important treatment modality. However, the dose-limiting toxicities of these cytokines limited their usage in clinic. Here, we review the basic biology of cytokines involved in the treatment of melanoma and discuss their therapeutic applications. Moreover, we describe several innovative technological approaches that have been developed to improve the pharmacokinetics, safety, and efficacy of these cytokines.

Recent Findings: The safety and the anti-tumor activity of newly engineered cytokines including PEGylated IL-2 (NKTR-214), PEGylated IL-10 (AM0010), and IL-15 super agonist (ALT-803) have been evaluated in clinical trials with encouraging clinical activity and acceptable safety profile, both as single agents and in combination with immuno-oncology agents. A greater understanding of the mechanisms of action and effective dosing of these newly engineered cytokine together with determination of optimum combination therapy regimens may yield greater clinical benefits in the future.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11912-021-01064-4DOI Listing
May 2021

Immune checkpoint inhibitor related hypophysitis: diagnostic criteria and recovery patterns.

Endocr Relat Cancer 2021 Jun 2;28(7):419-431. Epub 2021 Jun 2.

Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Endocrine Neoplasia and Hormonal Disorders, The University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.

Data on the diagnosis, natural course and management of immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI)-related hypophysitis (irH) are limited. We propose this study to validate the diagnostic criteria, describe characteristics and hormonal recovery and investigate factors associated with the occurrence and recovery of irH. A retrospective study including patients with suspected irH at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from 5/2003 to 8/2017 was conducted. IrH was defined as: (1) ACTH or TSH deficiency plus MRI changes or (2) ACTH and TSH deficiencies plus headache/fatigue in the absence of MRI findings. We found that of 83 patients followed for a median of 1.75 years (range 0.6-3), the proposed criteria used at initial evaluation accurately identified 61/62 (98%) irH cases. In the irH group (n = 62), the most common presentation was headache (60%), fatigue (66%), central hypothyroidism (94%), central adrenal insufficiency (69%) and MRI changes (77%). Compared with non-ipilimumab (ipi) regimens, ipi has a stronger association with irH occurrence (P = 0.004) and a shorter time to irH development (P < 0.01). Thyroid, gonadal and adrenal axis recovery occurred in 24, 58 and 0% patients, respectively. High-dose steroids (HDS) or ICI discontinuation was not associated with hormonal recovery. In the non-irH group (n = 19), one patient had isolated central hypothyroidism and six had isolated central adrenal insufficiency. All remained on hormone therapy at the last follow-up. We propose a strict definition of irH that identifies the vast majority of patients. HDS and ICI discontinuation is not always beneficial. Long-term follow-up to assess recovery is needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1530/ERC-20-0513DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8183642PMC
June 2021

Tilsotolimod with Ipilimumab Drives Tumor Responses in Anti-PD-1 Refractory Melanoma.

Cancer Discov 2021 Aug 11;11(8):1996-2013. Epub 2021 Mar 11.

Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Many patients with advanced melanoma are resistant to immune checkpoint inhibition. In the ILLUMINATE-204 phase I/II trial, we assessed intratumoral tilsotolimod, an investigational Toll-like receptor 9 agonist, with systemic ipilimumab in patients with anti-PD-1- resistant advanced melanoma. In all patients, 48.4% experienced grade 3/4 treatment-emergent adverse events. The overall response rate at the recommended phase II dose of 8 mg was 22.4%, and an additional 49% of patients had stable disease. Responses in noninjected lesions and in patients expected to be resistant to ipilimumab monotherapy were observed. Rapid induction of a local IFNα gene signature, dendritic cell maturation and enhanced markers of antigen presentation, and T-cell clonal expansion correlated with clinical response. A phase III clinical trial with this combination (NCT03445533) is ongoing. SIGNIFICANCE: Despite recent developments in advanced melanoma therapies, most patients do not experience durable responses. Intratumoral tilsotolimod injection elicits a rapid, local type 1 IFN response and, in combination with ipilimumab, activates T cells to promote clinical activity, including in distant lesions and patients not expected to respond to ipilimumab alone..
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2159-8290.CD-20-1546DOI Listing
August 2021

The efficacy of anti-programmed cell death protein 1 therapy among patients with metastatic acral and metastatic mucosal melanoma.

Cancer Med 2021 04 8;10(7):2293-2299. Epub 2021 Mar 8.

Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.

Background: Anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) antibodies are a standard treatment for metastatic melanoma patients. However, the understanding of the efficacy of anti-PD-1 for acral melanoma (AM) and mucosal melanoma (MM) is limited as these subtypes are relatively rare compared to cutaneous melanoma (CM).

Methods: This single institution, retrospective cohort study included patients with advanced AM and MM who underwent anti-PD-1 therapy for metastatic melanoma between 2012 and 2018. Objective responses were determined using the investigator-assessed Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors version 1.1. Progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were assessed using the Kaplan-Meier method. A Cox regression analysis was performed to identify the factors associated with survival outcomes.

Results: Ninety-seven patients were identified, 38 (39%) with AM and 59 (61%) with MM. The objective response rates (ORRs) were 21.0% and 15.2% in patients with AM and MM, respectively. The median PFS and OS were 3.6 and 25.7 months for AM patients, and 3.0 and 20.1 months for MM patients, respectively. Elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) (AM: hazard ratio [HR], 0.22; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.06-0.87; p = 0.03, MM: HR, 0.20; 95% CI, 0.08-0.53; p = 0.001) was significantly associated with shorter OS for both subtypes.

Conclusions: The ORR, PFS, and OS with anti-PD-1 therapy were poor in patients with AM and MM compared to those previously reported clinical trials for nonacral CM. High serum LDH was associated with significantly shorter OS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cam4.3781DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7982611PMC
April 2021

Infliximab for the treatment of patients with checkpoint inhibitor-associated acute tubular interstitial nephritis.

Oncoimmunology 2021 02 2;10(1):1877415. Epub 2021 Feb 2.

Section of Nephrology, Division of Internal Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.

Acute tubular interstitial nephritis (ATIN) is the most frequently reported pathology in patients with checkpoint inhibitor (CPI) induced acute kidney injury (AKI). Glucocorticoid (GC) therapy and discontinuation of CPI are the mainstay of treatment to prevent permanent renal dysfunction and dialysis. However, less than 50% of patients have complete kidney recovery and relapse of ATIN can occur. Infliximab is effective in treating other immune-related adverse events but its use for the treatment of CPI-ATIN is not well established. We report the first retrospective study examining the steroid-sparing potential of infliximab in achieving durable and complete renal recovery for patients with CPI-ATIN. Data were collected from medical records of patients diagnosed with CPI-AKI with a kidney biopsy or clinical diagnosis of ATIN that was managed with GC and infliximab. Infliximab-containing regimens were used to treat 10 patients with CPI-ATIN. Four patients relapsing after GC therapy achieved durable and complete renal recovery, four patients experienced partial renal recovery, and two patients showed no improvement in kidney function. This is the first study evaluating clinical outcomes using an infliximab-containing regimen for treatment of relapsed CPI-ATIN in patients or patients failing to achieve complete response after primary therapy. Our data suggest that infliximab may be a treatment option for achieving durable and complete renal recovery in this patient population and represents a potential steroid-sparing strategy in challenging cases of CPI-ATIN. Rigorous clinical studies are warranted to evaluate the risk-benefit analysis for infliximab usage in CPI-ATIN patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2162402X.2021.1877415DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7872057PMC
February 2021

Post-transplantation cyclophosphamide reduces the incidence of acute graft-versus-host disease in patients with acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndromes who receive immune checkpoint inhibitors after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 02;9(2)

Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are being used after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHCT) to reverse immune dysfunction. However, a major concern for the use of ICIs after alloHCT is the increased risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). We analyzed the association between GVHD prophylaxis and frequency of GVHD in patients who had received ICI therapy after alloHCT.

Methods: A retrospective study was performed in 21 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (n=16) or myelodysplastic syndromes (n=5) who were treated with antiprogrammed cell death protein 1 (16 patients) or anticytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (5 patients) therapy for disease relapse after alloHCT. Associations between the type of GVHD prophylaxis and incidence of GVHD were analyzed.

Results: Four patients (19%) developed acute GVHD. The incidence of acute GVHD was associated only with the type of post-transplantation GVHD prophylaxis; none of the other variables included (stem cell source, donor type, age at alloHCT, conditioning regimen and prior history of GVHD) were associated with the frequency of acute GVHD. Twelve patients received post-transplantation cyclophosphamide (PTCy) for GVHD prophylaxis. Patients who received PTCy had a significantly shorter median time to initiation of ICI therapy after alloHCT compared with patients who did not receive PTCy (median 5.1 months compared with 26.6 months). Despite early ICI therapy initiation, patients who received PTCy had a lower observed cumulative incidence of grades 2-4 acute GVHD compared with patients who did not receive PTCy (16% compared with 22%; p=0.7). After controlling for comorbidities and time from alloHCT to ICI therapy initiation, the analysis showed that PTCy was associated with a 90% reduced risk of acute GVHD (HR 0.1, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.6, p=0.01).

Conclusions: ICI therapy for relapsed acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndromes after alloHCT may be a safe and feasible option. PTCy appears to decrease the incidence of acute GVHD in this cohort of patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001818DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7919586PMC
February 2021

Distinct Immunophenotypes of T Cells in Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid From Leukemia Patients With Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors-Related Pulmonary Complications.

Front Immunol 2020 21;11:590494. Epub 2021 Jan 21.

Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, United States.

Patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are at risk of pneumonitis as well as pneumonia (combined henceforth as ICI-related pulmonary complications). Little is known about the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying ICI-related pulmonary complications. We characterized lymphocytes from bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and peripheral blood from seven AML/MDS patients with pulmonary symptoms after ICI-based therapy (ICI group) and four ICI-naïve AML/MDS patients with extracellular bacterial or fungal pneumonias (controls). BAL T cells in the ICI group were clonally expanded, and BAL IFNγ IL-17 CD8 T and CXCR3 CCR6 Th17/Th1 cells were enriched in the ICI group. Our data suggest that these cells may play a critical role in the pathophysiology of ICI-related pulmonary complications. Understanding of these cell populations may also provide predictive and diagnostic biomarkers of ICI-related pulmonary complications, eventually enabling differentiation of pneumonitis from pneumonia in AML/MDS patients receiving ICI-based therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.590494DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7859512PMC
July 2021

Genetic determinants of immune-related adverse events in patients with melanoma receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Cancer Immunol Immunother 2021 Jul 7;70(7):1939-1949. Epub 2021 Jan 7.

Section of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Department of General Internal Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.

Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) can cause profound immune-related adverse events (irAEs). The host genetic background is likely to play a role in irAE susceptibility because the presentation of toxicity varies among patients and many do not develop irAEs despite continued ICI use. We sought to identify potential genetic markers conferring risk for irAEs.

Methods: We conducted a pilot exploratory study in 89 melanoma patients who received ICIs (44 with irAEs, and 45 without irAEs after at least 1 year from starting treatment). Genotyping was performed using the Infinium Multi-Ethnic Global-8 v1.0 Bead Chip. The genotype data were extracted using PLINK (v1.90b3.34) and processed for quality control. Population structure-based clustering was carried out using IBS matrix, pairwise population concordance test (p < 1 × 10), and phenotype distribution for all study participants, resulting in seven population structure-based clusters. In the analytical stage, 599,931 variants in autosomal chromosomes were included for the association study. The association test was performed using an additive genetic model with exact logistic regression, adjusted for age, sex, and population cluster.

Results: A total of 30 variants or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with p < 1 × 10 were identified; 12 were associated with an increased risk of irAEs, and the remaining 18 were associated with a decreased risk. Overall, nine of the identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms mapped to eight unique genes that have been associated with autoimmunity or inflammatory diseases.

Conclusion: Several genetic variants associated with irAEs were identified. Additional larger studies are needed to validate these findings and establish their potential functional relevance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00262-020-02797-0DOI Listing
July 2021

A multi-center study on safety and efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors in cancer patients with kidney transplant.

Kidney Int 2021 07 24;100(1):196-205. Epub 2020 Dec 24.

Division of Nephrology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are widely used for various malignancies. However, their safety and efficacy in patients with a kidney transplant have not been defined. To delineate this, we conducted a multicenter retrospective study of 69 patients with a kidney transplant receiving ICIs between January 2010 and May 2020. For safety, we assessed the incidence, timing, and risk factors of acute graft rejection. For efficacy, objective response rate and overall survival were assessed in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most common cancers in our cohort, and compared with stage-matched 23 patients with squamous cell carcinoma and 14 with melanoma with a kidney transplant not receiving ICIs. Following ICI treatment, 29 out of 69 (42%) patients developed acute rejection, 19 of whom lost their allograft, compared with an acute rejection rate of 5.4% in the non-ICI cohort. Median time from ICI initiation to rejection was 24 days. Factors associated with a lower risk of rejection were mTOR inhibitor use (odds ratio 0.26; 95% confidence interval, 0.09-0.72) and triple-agent immunosuppression (0.67, 0.48-0.92). The objective response ratio was 36.4% and 40% in the squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma subgroups, respectively. In the squamous cell carcinoma subgroup, overall survival was significantly longer in patients treated with ICIs (median overall survival 19.8 months vs. 10.6 months), whereas in the melanoma subgroup, overall survival did not differ between groups. Thus, ICIs were associated with a high risk of rejection in patients with kidney transplants but may lead to improved cancer outcomes. Prospective studies are needed to determine optimal immunosuppression strategies to improve patient outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2020.12.015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8222056PMC
July 2021

Patient-Reported Outcomes in Clinical Trials Leading to Cancer Immunotherapy Drug Approvals From 2011 to 2018: A Systematic Review.

J Natl Cancer Inst 2021 May;113(5):532-542

Department of Genitourinary Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL, USA.

Background: Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) promote patient centeredness in clinical trials; however, in the field of rapidly emerging and clinically impressive immunotherapy, data on PROs are limited.

Methods: We systematically identified all immunotherapy approvals from 2011 through 2018 and assessed the analytic tools and reporting quality of associated PRO reports. For randomized clinical trials (RCTs), we developed a novel 24-point scoring scale: the PRO Endpoints Analysis Score based on 24 criteria derived from the recommendations of the Setting International Standards in Analyzing Patient-Reported Outcomes and Quality of Life Endpoints Data Consortium.

Results: We assessed 44 trial publications supporting 42 immunotherapy approvals. PROs were published for 21 of the 44 (47.7%) trial publications. Twenty-three trials (52.3%) were RCTs and 21 (47.7%) pertained to single-arm trials. The median time between primary clinical outcomes publications and their corresponding secondary PRO publications was 19 months (interquartile range = 9-29 months). Of the 21 PRO reports, 4 (19.0%) reported a specific hypothesis, and most (85.7%) used descriptive statistics. Three (3 of 21 [14.3%]) studies performed a control for type I error. As for RCTs, 14 of 23 (60.9%) published PRO data, including 13 (56.5%) that published a secondary dedicated manuscript. One-half of these 14 trials scored less than 13 points on the 24-point PRO Endpoints Analysis Score. The mean score was 12.71 (range = 5-17, SD = 3.71), and none met all the recommendations of the Setting International Standards in Analyzing Patient-Reported Outcomes and Quality of Life Endpoints Data Consortium.

Conclusions: Suboptimal reporting of PROs occurs regularly in cancer immunotherapy trials. Increased efforts are needed to maximize the value of these data in cancer immunotherapy development and approval.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djaa174DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8096374PMC
May 2021

Nivolumab and Ipilimumab in Metastatic Uveal Melanoma: Results From a Single-Arm Phase II Study.

J Clin Oncol 2021 02 30;39(6):599-607. Epub 2020 Oct 30.

Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.

Purpose: Metastatic uveal melanoma has poor overall survival (OS) and no approved systemic therapy options. Studies of single-agent immunotherapy regimens have shown minimal benefit. There is the potential for improved responses with the use of combination immunotherapy.

Patients And Methods: We conducted a phase II study of nivolumab with ipilimumab in patients with metastatic uveal melanoma. Any number of prior treatments was permitted. Patients received nivolumab 1 mg/kg and ipilimumab 3 mg/kg for four cycles, followed by nivolumab maintenance therapy for up to 2 years. The primary outcome of the study was overall response rate (ORR) as determined by RECIST 1.1 criteria. Progression-free survival (PFS), OS, and adverse events were also assessed.

Results: Thirty-five patients were enrolled, and 33 patients were evaluable for efficacy. The ORR was 18%, including one confirmed complete response and five confirmed partial responses. The median PFS was 5.5 months (95% CI, 3.4 to 9.5 months), and the median OS was 19.1 months (95% CI, 9.6 months to NR). Forty percent of patients experienced a grade 3-4 treatment-related adverse event.

Conclusion: The combination regimen of nivolumab plus ipilimumab demonstrates activity in metastatic uveal melanoma, with deep and sustained confirmed responses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.20.00605DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8257877PMC
February 2021

Low-dose radiation treatment enhances systemic antitumor immune responses by overcoming the inhibitory stroma.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 10;8(2)

Radiation Oncology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

Background: Despite some successes with checkpoint inhibitors for treating cancer, most patients remain refractory to treatment, possibly due to the inhibitory nature of the tumor stroma that impedes the function and entry of effector cells. We devised a new technique of combining immunotherapy with radiotherapy (XRT), more specifically low-dose XRT, to overcome the stroma and maximize systemic outcomes.

Methods: We bilaterally established 344SQ lung adenocarcinoma tumors in 129Sv/Ev mice. Primary and secondary tumors were irradiated with either high-dose or low-dose of XRT with systemic anti-programmed cell death protein 1 and anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4 administration. Survival and tumor growth were monitored for the various groups, and secondary tumors were phenotyped by flow cytometry for immune populations. Tumor growth factor-beta (TGF-β) cytokine levels were assessed locally after low-dose XRT, and specific immune-cell depletion experiments were conducted to identify the major contributors to the observed systemic antitumor effect.

Results: Through our preclinical and clinical studies, we observed that when tumor burden was high, there was a necessity of combining high-dose XRT to 'prime' T cells at the primary tumor site, with low-dose XRT directed to secondary (metastatic) tumors to 'modulate the stroma'. Low-dose XRT improved the antitumor outcomes of checkpoint inhibitors by favoring M1 macrophage polarization, enhancing natural killer (NK) cell infiltration, and reducing TGF-β levels. Depletion of CD4 T cells and NK cells abrogated the observed antitumor effect.

Conclusion: Our data extend the benefits of low-dose XRT to reprogram the tumor environment and improve the infiltration and function of effector immune cells into secondary tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-000537DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7592253PMC
October 2020

Conserved Interferon-γ Signaling Drives Clinical Response to Immune Checkpoint Blockade Therapy in Melanoma.

Cancer Cell 2020 10 10;38(4):500-515.e3. Epub 2020 Sep 10.

Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.

We analyze the transcriptome of baseline and on-therapy tumor biopsies from 101 patients with advanced melanoma treated with nivolumab (anti-PD-1) alone or combined with ipilimumab (anti-CTLA-4). We find that T cell infiltration and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) signaling signatures correspond most highly with clinical response to therapy, with a reciprocal decrease in cell-cycle and WNT signaling pathways in responding biopsies. We model the interaction in 58 human cell lines, where IFN-γ in vitro exposure leads to a conserved transcriptome response unless cells have IFN-γ receptor alterations. This conserved IFN-γ transcriptome response in melanoma cells serves to amplify the antitumor immune response. Therefore, the magnitude of the antitumor T cell response and the corresponding downstream IFN-γ signaling are the main drivers of clinical response or resistance to immune checkpoint blockade therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ccell.2020.08.005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7872287PMC
October 2020

Assessment of Image-Guided Intratumoral Delivery of Immunotherapeutics in Patients With Cancer.

JAMA Netw Open 2020 07 1;3(7):e207911. Epub 2020 Jul 1.

Department of Interventional Radiology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

Importance: Direct intratumoral delivery of immunotherapies is a compelling approach to overcoming barriers to systemic immunotherapy efficacy. While the use of intratumoral delivery of immunotherapy drugs is increasing rapidly in both the investigational and standard of care domains, the feasibility and safety of these interventions, particularly for deeper lesions that require image-guidance, remain unknown.

Objective: To address current knowledge gaps in image-guided techniques for intratumoral immunotherapy delivery and the safety of these interventions.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This case series study was performed at a single tertiary cancer center over a 2-year period from January 2016 to January 2018. Patients were followed until January 2019. All patients who underwent image-guided intratumoral delivery of immunotherapy agents in the standard of care, off-label, or investigational setting during the study period were included. Data were analyzed from February 1 to June 1, 2019.

Exposures: Image-guided biopsies and intratumoral injections of immunotherapies across several clinical trials as well as standard of care talimogene laherparepvec therapy.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Technical success, defined as the delivery of the prescribed injectate volume in its entirety, for image-guided biopsy and injections and procedure-related adverse events.

Results: A total of 85 patients (median [interquartile range] age, 61 [47-71] years; 42 [52%] men) underwent 498 encounters during the study period. These encounters comprised 327 image-guided intratumoral investigational agent injections in 67 patients in clinical trials, including 33 patients with melanoma (50%), 14 patients with sarcoma (21%), 3 patients with ovarian cancer (4.5%), 2 patients with breast cancer (3%), and 2 patients with colon cancer (3%). An additional 18 patients with melanoma underwent 113 image-guided talimogene laherparepvec injections. There were no adverse events reported related to the technical component of the procedure, specifically needle insertion or biopsy. Serious adverse events (Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events score ≥3), including dyspnea and severe flu-like symptoms developing within 24 hours of the injection and requiring hospitalization, occurred after 3 of 327 investigational agent injections (2%) and 4 of 113 talimogene laherparepvec injections (4%).

Conclusions And Relevance: The findings of this case series study suggest that intratumoral injections of immunotherapies were feasible across a range of histological conditions and target organs. Immediate postdelivery anticipated adverse events occurred in a small number of instances. Performing physicians should have the necessary safeguards in place to respond as needed. Optimal methods for intratumoral drug delivery remain unresolved, and efforts to standardize drug delivery techniques are required.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.7911DOI Listing
July 2020

Bempegaldesleukin plus nivolumab in untreated, unresectable or metastatic melanoma: Phase III PIVOT IO 001 study design.

Future Oncol 2020 Oct 29;16(28):2165-2175. Epub 2020 Jul 29.

Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Royal North Shore & Mater Hospital, St Leonards, NSW, Australia.

Nivolumab, a PD-1 inhibitor, has demonstrated prolonged survival benefit in patients with advanced melanoma. Bempegaldesleukin (BEMPEG; NKTR-214), a first-in-class CD122-preferential IL-2 pathway agonist, provides sustained signaling through the IL-2βγ receptor, which activates effector T and natural killer cells. In the Phase I/II PIVOT-02 trial, the combination of bempegaldesleukin plus nivolumab was well-tolerated and demonstrated clinical activity as first-line therapy in metastatic melanoma. Here, we describe the design of and rationale for the Phase III, global, randomized, open-label PIVOT IO 001 trial comparing bempegaldesleukin plus nivolumab with nivolumab alone in patients with previously untreated, unresectable or metastatic melanoma. Primary end points include objective response rate, progression-free survival and overall survival. Key secondary end points include further investigation of safety/tolerability, previously assessed in the PIVOT-02 trial. NCT03635983 (ClinicalTrials.gov).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2217/fon-2020-0351DOI Listing
October 2020

Bempegaldesleukin (NKTR-214) plus Nivolumab in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors: Phase I Dose-Escalation Study of Safety, Efficacy, and Immune Activation (PIVOT-02).

Cancer Discov 2020 08 21;10(8):1158-1173. Epub 2020 May 21.

Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, New York.

This single-arm, phase I dose-escalation trial (NCT02983045) evaluated bempegaldesleukin (NKTR-214/BEMPEG), a CD122-preferential IL2 pathway agonist, plus nivolumab in 38 patients with selected immunotherapy-naïve advanced solid tumors (melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, and non-small cell lung cancer). Three dose-limiting toxicities were reported in 2 of 17 patients during dose escalation [hypotension ( = 1), hyperglycemia ( = 1), metabolic acidosis ( = 1)]. The most common treatment-related adverse events (TRAE) were flu-like symptoms (86.8%), rash (78.9%), fatigue (73.7%), and pruritus (52.6%). Eight patients (21.1%) experienced grade 3/4 TRAEs; there were no treatment-related deaths. Total objective response rate across tumor types and dose cohorts was 59.5% (22/37), with 7 complete responses (18.9%). Cellular and gene expression analysis of longitudinal tumor biopsies revealed increased infiltration, activation, and cytotoxicity of CD8 T cells, without regulatory T-cell enhancement. At the recommended phase II dose, BEMPEG 0.006 mg/kg plus nivolumab 360 mg every 3 weeks, the combination was well tolerated and demonstrated encouraging clinical activity irrespective of baseline PD-L1 status. SIGNIFICANCE: These data show that BEMPEG can be successfully combined with a checkpoint inhibitor as dual immunotherapy for a range of advanced solid tumors. Efficacy was observed regardless of baseline PD-L1 status and baseline levels of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, suggesting therapeutic potential for patients with poor prognostic risk factors for response to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade...
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2159-8290.CD-19-1510DOI Listing
August 2020

TERT amplification but not activation of canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway is involved in acral lentiginous melanoma progression to metastasis.

Mod Pathol 2020 10 13;33(10):2067-2074. Epub 2020 May 13.

Department of Pathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.

Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is a rare tumor that occurs on non-sun exposed skin areas of the hands and feet. Reports suggest that ALM exhibits poor prognosis, although mechanisms driving this remain poorly understood. Alterations in TERT and the Wnt/β-catenin (Wnt) pathway have been suggested to correlate with prognosis of ALM. Thus, immunohistochemical expression of β-catenin and LEF1 along with TERT amplification by FISH was investigated in 34 primary ALMs, 20 metastatic ALMs, 10 primary non-ALMs, and 15 acral nevi. Foot/toe was the most common primary tumor location (85%) for ALM. TERT amplification was detected in 6 of 28 (21.4%) primary ALM, 2 of 8 (25%) primary non-ALM, and 8 of 18 (44.4%) metastatic ALM, the latter showing significantly higher frequency compared with primary melanomas (P = 0.043). Most metastatic ALMs positive for TERT amplification lacked BRAF V600E (87.5%). Cytoplasmic and nonnuclear expression of β-catenin was variably detected in all cases. Metastatic ALM revealed lower expression of β-catenin compared with primary ALM (P = 0.017). No differences in LEF1 expression were detected among the groups; however, acral nevi showed decreased labeling with dermal descent, in contrast to melanoma. No molecular-genetic alteration correlated with prognosis. TERT amplification by FISH is a frequent finding in primary ALM and appears to increase in metastatic tumors, suggesting a role in tumor progression to metastasis. Although TERT amplification has been reported to be infrequent in primary non-ALM, it showed comparable frequency with ALM in our series. Our immunohistochemical findings are not fully supportive of activation of either canonical or noncanonical Wnt cascades in ALM. TERT amplification by FISH and LEF1 immunohistochemistry may help in the differential diagnosis between primary ALM and acral nevus. TERT amplification appears to be a promising target for therapy in patients with metastatic ALM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41379-020-0565-5DOI Listing
October 2020

Melanoma of the External Auditory Canal: A Review of Seven Cases at a Tertiary Care Referral Center.

Laryngoscope 2021 01 17;131(1):165-172. Epub 2020 Feb 17.

Department of Head and Neck Surgery, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Objectives/hypothesis: Examine the presentation and management characteristics of seven patients with melanoma of the external auditory canal (EAC).

Study Design: Retrospective case series and review of the relevant literature.

Methods: Records of seven patients from 2003 to 2017 with melanoma of the EAC were reviewed for characteristics of presentation, subsequent management, and outcomes. A thorough review of relevant literature is presented.

Results: The median age is 52 years, with four females. The average Breslow depth was 3.6 mm, with five patients having a Clark level IV or greater on presentation. Six patients underwent lateral temporal bone resection, and one patient underwent wide local excision of the cartilaginous canal. Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) was performed in three patients. Three patients experienced distant recurrence an average of 20 months following primary therapy. Median follow-up was 21 months. At last follow-up, four were free of disease, one had active disease, and two were deceased from melanoma.

Conclusions: This is the largest series and the first to report the use of SLNB for patients with EAC melanoma in the peer-reviewed literature. Patients with external auditory canal melanoma present with higher Breslow thickness and stage relative to all external ear melanomas. Management should include wide local excision, which entails lateral temporal bone resection when the bony ear canal is involved. SLNB has a critical role in identifying patients with early metastatic disease. Postoperative radiation therapy should be considered for patients with high-risk features to reduce the risk of locoregional relapse. Chemotherapy, and especially immunotherapy, has an emerging role for this disease.

Level Of Evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 131:165-172, 2021.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/lary.28548DOI Listing
January 2021

Circulating Tumor Cells and Early Relapse in Node-positive Melanoma.

Clin Cancer Res 2020 04 3;26(8):1886-1895. Epub 2020 Feb 3.

Department of Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Purpose: There is a need for sensitive, reproducible biomarkers for patients with stage III melanoma to guide clinical decision making. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) can be detected in patients with melanoma; however, there are limited data regarding their significance in stage III disease. The aim of this study was to determine whether CTCs are associated with early relapse in stage III melanoma.

Experimental Design: We prospectively assessed CTCs at first presentation in clinic (baseline) for 243 patients with stage III melanoma. CTCs were measured using the CellSearch System. Relapse-free survival (RFS) was compared between patients with one or more baseline CTC versus those with no CTCs. Log-rank test and Cox regression analysis were applied to establish associations of CTCs with RFS.

Results: At least one baseline CTC was identified in 90 of 243 (37%) patients. Forty-five (19%), 67 (28%), 118 (49%), and 13 (5%) patients were stage IIIA, IIIB, IIIC, or IIID, respectively. CTC detection was not associated with substage, or primary tumor characteristics. Multivariable analysis demonstrated that the detection of ≥1 baseline CTC was significantly associated with decreased 6-month RFS [log-rank, < 0.0001; HR, 3.62, 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.78-7.36; < 0.0001] and 54-month RFS (log-rank, = 0.01; HR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.13-2.54; = 0.01).

Conclusions: ≥1 CTC was independently associated with melanoma relapse, suggesting that CTC assessment may be useful to identify patients at risk for relapse who could derive benefit from adjuvant therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-2670DOI Listing
April 2020

Bempegaldesleukin selectively depletes intratumoral Tregs and potentiates T cell-mediated cancer therapy.

Nat Commun 2020 01 31;11(1):661. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.

High dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) is active against metastatic melanoma and renal cell carcinoma, but treatment-associated toxicity and expansion of suppressive regulatory T cells (Tregs) limit its use in patients with cancer. Bempegaldesleukin (NKTR-214) is an engineered IL-2 cytokine prodrug that provides sustained activation of the IL-2 pathway with a bias to the IL-2 receptor CD122 (IL-2Rβ). Here we assess the therapeutic impact and mechanism of action of NKTR-214 in combination with anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 checkpoint blockade therapy or peptide-based vaccination in mice. NKTR-214 shows superior anti-tumor activity over native IL-2 and systemically expands anti-tumor CD8 T cells while inducing Treg depletion in tumor tissue but not in the periphery. Similar trends of intratumoral Treg dynamics are observed in a small cohort of patients treated with NKTR-214. Mechanistically, intratumoral Treg depletion is mediated by CD8 Teff-associated cytokines IFN-γ and TNF-α. These findings demonstrate that NKTR-214 synergizes with T cell-mediated anti-cancer therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14471-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6994577PMC
January 2020

Persistence of adoptively transferred T cells with a kinetically engineered IL-2 receptor agonist.

Nat Commun 2020 01 31;11(1):660. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a component of most protocols of adoptive cell transfer (ACT) therapy for cancer, but is limited by short exposure and high toxicities. NKTR-214 is a kinetically-engineered IL-2 receptor βγ (IL-2Rβγ)-biased agonist consisting of IL-2 conjugated to multiple releasable polyethylene glycol chains resulting in sustained signaling through IL-2Rβγ. We report that ACT supported by NKTR-214 increases the proliferation, homing and persistence of anti-tumor T cells compared to ACT with IL-2, resulting in superior antitumor activity in a B16-F10 murine melanoma model. The use of NKTR-214 increases the number of polyfunctional T cells in murine spleens and tumors compared to IL-2, and enhances the polyfunctionality of T and NK cells in the peripheral blood of patients receiving NKTR-214 in a phase 1 trial. In conclusion, NKTR-214 may have the potential to improve the antitumor activity of ACT in humans through increased in vivo expansion and polyfunctionality of the adoptively transferred T cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12901-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6994533PMC
January 2020
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