Publications by authors named "Dirk Schadendorf"

627 Publications

Skin cancer classification via convolutional neural networks: systematic review of studies involving human experts.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Sep 8;156:202-216. Epub 2021 Sep 8.

First Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Background: Multiple studies have compared the performance of artificial intelligence (AI)-based models for automated skin cancer classification to human experts, thus setting the cornerstone for a successful translation of AI-based tools into clinicopathological practice.

Objective: The objective of the study was to systematically analyse the current state of research on reader studies involving melanoma and to assess their potential clinical relevance by evaluating three main aspects: test set characteristics (holdout/out-of-distribution data set, composition), test setting (experimental/clinical, inclusion of metadata) and representativeness of participating clinicians.

Methods: PubMed, Medline and ScienceDirect were screened for peer-reviewed studies published between 2017 and 2021 and dealing with AI-based skin cancer classification involving melanoma. The search terms skin cancer classification, deep learning, convolutional neural network (CNN), melanoma (detection), digital biomarkers, histopathology and whole slide imaging were combined. Based on the search results, only studies that considered direct comparison of AI results with clinicians and had a diagnostic classification as their main objective were included.

Results: A total of 19 reader studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Of these, 11 CNN-based approaches addressed the classification of dermoscopic images; 6 concentrated on the classification of clinical images, whereas 2 dermatopathological studies utilised digitised histopathological whole slide images.

Conclusions: All 19 included studies demonstrated superior or at least equivalent performance of CNN-based classifiers compared with clinicians. However, almost all studies were conducted in highly artificial settings based exclusively on single images of the suspicious lesions. Moreover, test sets mainly consisted of holdout images and did not represent the full range of patient populations and melanoma subtypes encountered in clinical practice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.06.049DOI Listing
September 2021

Response to combined peptide receptor radionuclide therapy and checkpoint immunotherapy with ipilimumab plus nivolumab in metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma.

J Nucl Med 2021 Sep 2. Epub 2021 Sep 2.

University Hospital Essen, Germany.

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a highly aggressive neuroendocrine cancer of the skin. For patients who are refractory to immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI), treatment options are limited. Few cases of MCCs with high somatostatin receptor (SSTR) expression were reported to show responses upon SSTR-directed peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). A combination of PRRT and ICI has not been reported in MCC to date. A 60-year old man with metastatic MCC, who was primarily resistant to the anti-PD-L1 ICI with avelumab and secondarily resistant to the anti-CTLA4 plus anti-PD-1 ICI therapy with ipilimumab plus nivolumab (IPI/NIVO) with additional RT, presented with multiple bone and lymph node metastases. After confirmation of SSTR expression, the patient was treated with a salvage therapy of additional four doses of IPI/NIVO combined with two cycles of PRRT. Treatment was well tolerated with transient hematoxicity and mild nausea. Re-staging three months after therapy start showed an exceptional good response. This case report demonstrates the feasibility of a combined treatment with IPI/NIVO and PRRT as a salvage option for MCC patients progressing under ICI therapy. Prospective evidence confirming the additive value of combining ICI and radionuclide therapy in a larger cohort is needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2967/jnumed.121.262344DOI Listing
September 2021

Targeting the Atf7ip-Setdb1 complex augments antitumor immunity by boosting tumor immunogenicity.

Cancer Immunol Res 2021 Aug 30. Epub 2021 Aug 30.

State Key Laboratory of Cell Biology, CAS center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science, Innovation Center for Cell Signaling Network, Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Substantial progress has been made in understanding how tumors escape immune surveillance. However, few measures to counteract tumor immune evasion have been developed. Suppression of tumor antigen expression is a common adaptive mechanism that cancers use to evade detection and destruction by the immune system. Epigenetic modifications play a critical role in various aspects of immune invasion, including the regulation of tumor antigen expression. To identify epigenetic regulators of tumor antigen expression, we established a transplantable syngeneic tumor model of immune escape with silenced antigen expression and used this system as a platform for a CRISPR-Cas9 suppressor screen for genes encoding epigenetic modifiers. We found that disruption of the genes encoding either of the chromatin modifiers activating transcription factor 7 interacting protein (Atf7ip) or its interacting partner SET domain bifurcated histone lysine methyltransferase 1 (Setdb1) in tumor cells restored tumor antigen expression. This resulted in augmented tumor immunogenicity concomitant with elevated endogenous retroviral (ERV) antigens and mRNA intron retention. ERV disinhibition was associated with a robust type I interferon response and increased T-cell infiltration, leading to rejection of cells lacking intact Atf7ip or Setdb1. ATF7IP or SETDB1 expression inversely correlated with antigen processing and presentation pathways, interferon signaling, and T-cell infiltration and cytotoxicity in human cancers. Our results provide a rationale for targeting Atf7ip or Setdb1 in cancer immunotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-21-0543DOI Listing
August 2021

Apoptotic Gastritis in Melanoma Patients Treated With PD-1-Based Immune Checkpoint Inhibition - Clinical and Histopathological Findings Including the Diagnostic Value of Anti-Caspase-3 Immunohistochemistry.

Front Oncol 2021 11;11:725549. Epub 2021 Aug 11.

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.

Background: Gastritis induced by checkpoint inhibitors (CPI) is a rare but severe drug-related side effect. The reference standard for confirming CPI-associated gastritis (CPI-assGastritis) is histopathological assessment; however, the histopathological features of CPI-assGastritis are not yet adequately defined.

Materials And Methods: Gastric biopsies of melanoma patients with histopathologically suspected CPI-assGastritis were compared with gastric biopsies of patients with inflammation free gastric mucosa (IFGM), type A, B, and C gastritis with respect to apoptosis count and predominant histopathological features. Immunohistochemical anti-caspase-3 staining was performed to identify apoptosis. Quantification was performed by manually counting the number of apoptotic events per 10 high-power fields (HPF). Clinical symptoms, treatment, and follow-up data of patients with CPI-assGastritis were examined. The nonparametric Mann-Whitney test was used for statistical testing.

Results: Five melanoma patients (three women, two men; median age: 45 years) were treated with PD-1-based CPI. The patients reported epigastric pain, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. Histologically, the patients with CPI-assGastritis showed a partly lymphocytic, partly granulocytic inflammatory infiltrate. Manual counting of apoptotic cells in biopsy tissue slides stained against caspase 3 revealed a median of 6 apoptotic events/10 HPF (95% CI, 2.75-17.30) in the patients with CPI-assGastritis. Results for the comparison cohort (patients n = 21) were a median of 1 apoptotic event/10 HPF (95% CI, 0.5-4.5) for type-A gastritis (six patients), a median of 2 apoptotic events/10 HPF (95% CI, 0-4.5) for type-B gastritis (five patients), and no apoptosis for IFGM and type-C gastritis (five patients). Patients with CPI-assGastritis had a significantly higher apoptosis count than patients with IFGM (p<0.01), type A (p<0.05), B (p<0.05), and C gastritis (p<0.01). None of the CPI-assGastritis biopsies showed evidence of . All CPI-assGastritis patients responded to systemic treatment with corticosteroids.

Conclusion: CPI-assGastritis manifests with nonspecific symptoms but histologically shows a high number of apoptotic events, which can best be visualized by anti-caspase-3 immunohistochemistry. This histopathological feature may help to histologically differentiate CPI-assGastritis from other forms of gastritis and inform decision-making regarding its optimal management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2021.725549DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8385713PMC
August 2021

Evaluation of the reporting quality of clinical practice guidelines on melanoma using the RIGHT checklist.

Ann Transl Med 2021 Jul;9(14):1172

Department of Pharmacy, the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, China.

Background: The International Reporting Items for Practice Guidelines in Healthcare (RIGHT) instrument was launched in 2016 to improve the reporting of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs). We aimed to systematically evaluate the reporting quality of CPGs on melanoma using RIGHT.

Methods: We systematically searched electronic databases, guideline databases and medical society websites until November 2020 to identify guidelines for melanoma published since 2018. The reporting quality of included guidelines was assessed by calculating the percentages of the 35 items of the RIGHT checklist that were appropriately reported. We stratified the results by selected characteristics to describe the correlation of these factors with reporting quality.

Results: A total of 20 guidelines were identified and analyzed. The mean reporting rate was greater than 50% in five of the seven domains of the RIGHT checklist; the remaining two domains (, ) both had a mean reporting rate of 35.0%. The mean overall reporting rate was 63.7%. No CPG considered equity, feasibility or acceptability of the recommendations (item 14c), and only one CPG described the role of funders (item 18b). Guidelines that reported funding or were published in higher-impact journals tended to have a higher reporting quality, whereas the reporting rate in the one included Chinese-language CPG was low.

Conclusions: Reporting quality of melanoma CPGs tends to be relatively good. The CPGs developed in China were however an exception. The use of the 2016 RIGHT tool in guideline development should be encouraged to support rigorous and transparent reporting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.21037/atm-21-2603DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8350697PMC
July 2021

Integrated analysis of a phase 2 study of cemiplimab in advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma: extended follow-up of outcomes and quality of life analysis.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 Aug;9(8)

Departments of Dermatology and Head and Neck Surgery, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.

Background: To provide pooled longer term data from three groups of a phase 2 study of cemiplimab in patients with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC), and to determine duration of response (DOR) and impact on quality of life (QoL).

Methods: Patients received cemiplimab 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks (group 1, metastatic CSCC [mCSCC], n=59; group 2, locally advanced CSCC, n=78) or cemiplimab 350 mg every 3 weeks (group 3, mCSCC, n=56). Primary endpoint was objective response rate (ORR) per independent central review (ICR). QoL was repeatedly measured at day 1 of each treatment cycle (groups 1 and 2: 8 weeks; group 3: 9 weeks).

Results: Median duration of follow-up was 15.7 months. Overall, ORR per ICR was 46.1% (95% CI: 38.9% to 53.4%). Complete response (CR) rates were 20.3%, 12.8%, and 16.1% for groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Median time to CR was 11.2 months. Among patients with partial response or CR, the estimated proportion of patients with ongoing response at 12 months from the first objective response was 87.8% (95% CI: 78.5% to 93.3%), with median DOR not reached. Kaplan-Meier estimated probability of overall survival (OS) was 73.3% (95% CI: 66.1% to 79.2%) at 24 months, with median OS not reached. Global Health Status (GHS)/QoL improvements were observed as early as cycle 2 and were significantly improved and durable until last assessment. Kaplan-Meier estimate of median time to first clinically meaningful improvement for pain was 2.1 (95% CI: 2.0 to 3.7) months and was significantly improved in responders versus non-responders (p<0.0001).

Conclusions: This is the largest (n=193) clinical dataset for a programmed cell death-1 inhibitor against advanced CSCC, confirming the sustained substantial clinical activity of cemiplimab in these patients, including new findings of improved CR rates over time, increasing DOR, and durable pain control and GHS/QoL improvement.

Trial Registration Number: ClinicalTrials.gov Registry (NCT02760498), https://clinicaltrialsgov/ct2/show/NCT02760498.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2021-002757DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8382148PMC
August 2021

The concepts of rechallenge and retreatment with immune checkpoint blockade in melanoma patients.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Sep 12;155:268-280. Epub 2021 Aug 12.

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, Essen & German Cancer Consortium, Partner Site, Germany.

Forty to 60% of patients with advanced or metastatic melanoma respond to first-line immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) and half of all patients in the metastatic setting eventually progress. This review evaluated the latest long-term data from clinical trials. It also considered data from recent retrospective studies, as these address important questions for clinical practice. 'Retreatment' defined as 'repeated treatment with the same therapeutic class following relapse after adjuvant treatment has ended' and showed activity in selected patients with recurrence after regular completion of adjuvant PD-1 treatment. In melanoma patients with adjuvant PD-1 monotherapy who recur during adjuvant treatment, further treatment with PD-1 monotherapy seems to have no clinical utility, indicating the need for a therapy switch or escalation in these patients. Targeted therapy with BRAF/MEK inhibitors and ipilimumab-based therapy (alone or combined with PD-1 blockade) show clinical activity in patients who recur during and after adjuvant treatment. 'Rechallenge', defined as 'repeated treatment with the same therapeutic class following disease progression in patients who had clinical benefit with prior treatment for unresectable or metastatic disease', with pembrolizumab at progression in the advanced setting achieving additional disease control. If possible, 'escalation' (PD-1 inhibitors combined with additional agents) should be preferred to PD-1 inhibitor monotherapy rechallenge as higher response rates were demonstrated. The combination of PD-1 plus CTLA-4 was found to be more effective but not more toxic than CTLA-4 alone. Promising antitumor activity was observed for escalation to lenvatinib plus pembrolizumab, entinostat plus pembrolizumab, and relatlimab plus nivolumab. Retreatment, rechallenge and escalation are available options for patients with melanoma who relapse in the adjuvant or advanced setting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.07.002DOI Listing
September 2021

Targeting early stages of cardiotoxicity from anti-PD1 immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

Eur Heart J 2021 Aug 14. Epub 2021 Aug 14.

Department of Cardiology and Vascular Medicine, West German Heart and Vascular Center, University Hospital Essen, Hufelandstraße 55, Essen 45147, Germany.

Aims: Cardiac immune-related adverse events (irAEs) from immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) targeting programmed death 1 (PD1) are of growing concern. Once cardiac irAEs become clinically manifest, fatality rates are high. Cardio-oncology aims to prevent detrimental effects before manifestation of severe complications by targeting early pathological changes. We therefore aimed to investigate early consequences of PD1 inhibition for cardiac integrity to prevent the development of overt cardiac disease.

Methods And Results: We investigated cardiac-specific consequences from anti-PD1 therapy in a combined biochemical and in vivo phenotyping approach. Mouse hearts showed broad expression of the ligand PDL1 on cardiac endothelial cells as a main mediator of immune-crosstalk. Using a novel melanoma mouse model, we assessed that anti-PD1 therapy promoted myocardial infiltration with CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, the latter being markedly activated. Left ventricular (LV) function was impaired during pharmacological stress, as shown by pressure-volume catheterization. This was associated with a dysregulated myocardial metabolism, including the proteome and the lipidome. Analogous to the experimental approach, in patients with metastatic melanoma (n = 7) receiving anti-PD1 therapy, LV function in response to stress was impaired under therapy. Finally, we identified that blockade of tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) preserved LV function without attenuating the anti-cancer efficacy of anti-PD1 therapy.

Conclusions: Anti-PD1 therapy induces a disruption of cardiac immune homeostasis leading to early impairment of myocardial functional integrity, with potential prognostic effects on the growing number of treated patients. Blockade of TNFα may serve as an approach to prevent the manifestation of ICI-related cardiotoxicity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehab430DOI Listing
August 2021

TMB and Inflammatory Gene Expression Associated with Clinical Outcomes following Immunotherapy in Advanced Melanoma.

Cancer Immunol Res 2021 Aug 13. Epub 2021 Aug 13.

Unit of Melanoma, Cancer Immunotherapy and Development Therapeutics, Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione G. Pascale, Naples, Italy.

Outcomes for patients with melanoma have improved over the past decade as a result of the development and FDA approval of immunotherapies targeting cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4), programmed death-1 (PD-1), and programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1). However, these therapies do not benefit all patients, and an area of intensive research investigation is identifying biomarkers that can predict which patients are most likely to benefit from them. Here, we report exploratory analyses of the associations of tumor mutational burden (TMB), a 4-gene inflammatory gene expression signature, and mutation status with tumor response, progression-free survival, and overall survival in patients with advanced melanoma treated as part of the CheckMate 066 and 067 phase III clinical trials evaluating immuno-oncology therapies. In patients enrolled in CheckMate 067 receiving the anti-PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab (NIVO) alone or in combination with the anti-CTLA-4 inhibitor ipilimumab (IPI) or IPI alone, longer survival appeared to associate with high (>median) versus low (≤median) TMB and with high versus low inflammatory signature scores. For NIVO-treated patients, the results regarding TMB association were confirmed in CheckMate 066. In addition, improved survival was observed with high TMB and absence of mutation. Weak correlations were observed between PD-L1, TMB, and the inflammatory signature. Combined assessment of TMB, inflammatory gene expression signature, and mutation status may be predictive for response to immune checkpoint blockade in advanced melanoma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-20-0983DOI Listing
August 2021

A benchmark for neural network robustness in skin cancer classification.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Sep 11;155:191-199. Epub 2021 Aug 11.

Digital Biomarkers for Oncology Group, National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:

Background: One prominent application for deep learning-based classifiers is skin cancer classification on dermoscopic images. However, classifier evaluation is often limited to holdout data which can mask common shortcomings such as susceptibility to confounding factors. To increase clinical applicability, it is necessary to thoroughly evaluate such classifiers on out-of-distribution (OOD) data.

Objective: The objective of the study was to establish a dermoscopic skin cancer benchmark in which classifier robustness to OOD data can be measured.

Methods: Using a proprietary dermoscopic image database and a set of image transformations, we create an OOD robustness benchmark and evaluate the robustness of four different convolutional neural network (CNN) architectures on it.

Results: The benchmark contains three data sets-Skin Archive Munich (SAM), SAM-corrupted (SAM-C) and SAM-perturbed (SAM-P)-and is publicly available for download. To maintain the benchmark's OOD status, ground truth labels are not provided and test results should be sent to us for assessment. The SAM data set contains 319 unmodified and biopsy-verified dermoscopic melanoma (n = 194) and nevus (n = 125) images. SAM-C and SAM-P contain images from SAM which were artificially modified to test a classifier against low-quality inputs and to measure its prediction stability over small image changes, respectively. All four CNNs showed susceptibility to corruptions and perturbations.

Conclusions: This benchmark provides three data sets which allow for OOD testing of binary skin cancer classifiers. Our classifier performance confirms the shortcomings of CNNs and provides a frame of reference. Altogether, this benchmark should facilitate a more thorough evaluation process and thereby enable the development of more robust skin cancer classifiers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.06.047DOI Listing
September 2021

Deep learning approach to predict sentinel lymph node status directly from routine histology of primary melanoma tumours.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Sep 20;154:227-234. Epub 2021 Jul 20.

Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, University Medical Center Mannheim, Ruprecht-Karl University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany; Department of Dermatology, University Hospital (UKSH), Kiel, Germany.

Aim: Sentinel lymph node status is a central prognostic factor for melanomas. However, the surgical excision involves some risks for affected patients. In this study, we therefore aimed to develop a digital biomarker that can predict lymph node metastasis non-invasively from digitised H&E slides of primary melanoma tumours.

Methods: A total of 415 H&E slides from primary melanoma tumours with known sentinel node (SN) status from three German university hospitals and one private pathological practice were digitised (150 SN positive/265 SN negative). Two hundred ninety-one slides were used to train artificial neural networks (ANNs). The remaining 124 slides were used to test the ability of the ANNs to predict sentinel status. ANNs were trained and/or tested on data sets that were matched or not matched between SN-positive and SN-negative cases for patient age, ulceration, and tumour thickness, factors that are known to correlate with lymph node status.

Results: The best accuracy was achieved by an ANN that was trained and tested on unmatched cases (61.8% ± 0.2%) area under the receiver operating characteristic (AUROC). In contrast, ANNs that were trained and/or tested on matched cases achieved (55.0% ± 3.5%) AUROC or less.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that the image classifier can predict lymph node status to some, albeit so far not clinically relevant, extent. It may do so by mostly detecting equivalents of factors on histological slides that are already known to correlate with lymph node status. Our results provide a basis for future research with larger data cohorts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.05.026DOI Listing
September 2021

Immune Checkpoint Blockade for Metastatic Uveal Melanoma: Patterns of Response and Survival According to the Presence of Hepatic and Extrahepatic Metastasis.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Jul 4;13(13). Epub 2021 Jul 4.

Department of Dermatology, DRK Krankenhaus Rabenstein, 09117 Chemnitz, Germany.

Background: Since there is no standardized and effective treatment for advanced uveal melanoma (UM), the prognosis is dismal once metastases develop. Due to the availability of immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) in the real-world setting, the prognosis of metastatic UM has improved. However, it is unclear how the presence of hepatic and extrahepatic metastasis impacts the response and survival after ICB.

Methods: A total of 178 patients with metastatic UM treated with ICB were included in this analysis. Patients were recruited from German skin cancer centers and the German national skin cancer registry (ADOReg). To investigate the impact of hepatic metastasis, two cohorts were compared: patients with liver metastasis only (cohort A, = 55) versus those with both liver and extra-hepatic metastasis (cohort B, = 123). Data were analyzed in both cohorts for response to treatment, progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS). The survival and progression probabilities were calculated with the Kaplan-Meier method. Log-rank tests, χ tests, and t-tests were performed to detect significant differences between both cohorts.

Results: The median OS of the overall population was 16 months (95% CI 13.4-23.7) and the median PFS, 2.8 months (95% CI 2.5-3.0). The median OS was longer in cohort B than in cohort A (18.2 vs. 6.1 months; = 0.071). The best objective response rate to dual ICB was 13.8% and to anti-PD-1 monotherapy 8.9% in the entire population. Patients with liver metastases only had a lower response to dual ICB, yet without significance (cohort A 8.7% vs. cohort B 16.7%; = 0.45). Adverse events (AE) occurred in 41.6%. Severe AE were observed in 26.3% and evenly distributed between both cohorts.

Conclusion: The survival of this large cohort of patients with advanced UM was more favorable than reported in previous benchmark studies. Patients with both hepatic and extrahepatic metastasis showed more favorable survival and higher response to dual ICB than those with hepatic metastasis only.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13133359DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8268645PMC
July 2021

Coronavirus disease 2019 vaccine mimics lymph node metastases in patients undergoing skin cancer follow-up: A monocentre study.

Eur J Cancer 2021 09 26;154:167-174. Epub 2021 Jun 26.

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.

Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the lives of people around the world. Fortunately, sufficient vaccines are now available. Local reactions with ipsilateral lymphadenopathy are among the most common side effects. We investigated the impact of lymphadenopathy after COVID-19 vaccination on the value of ultrasound in tumour patients.

Patients And Methods: Patients with melanoma or Merkel cell carcinoma were included who underwent lymph node excision and received COVID-19 vaccination within 6 weeks before surgery. The consistency of the preoperative ultrasound findings with the histopathologic findings was investigated.

Results: Eight patients were included (two Merkel cell carcinoma and six melanoma patients) who underwent lymph node excision between 16th April 2021 and 19th May 2021 and had previously received COVID-19 vaccination. In three of the eight patients (one Merkel cell carcinoma and two melanoma patients), lymph node metastases were erroneously diagnosed preoperatively during tumour follow-up with physical examination, ultrasound, and or fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT). In these three patients, the suspected lymph node metastases were located in the left axilla after COVID-19 vaccination in the left upper arm, which resulted in selective lymph node removal in two patients and complete lymphadenectomy in one patient.

Conclusion: COVID-19 vaccine-associated lymphadenopathy is expected to be observed much more frequently in the near future because of increasing vaccination rates. This cause of lymphadenopathy, which may in ultrasound as well as in FDG PET/CT resemble lymph node metastases, must be considered, especially in oncologic patients undergoing tumour follow-up. In addition, COVID-19 vaccination should be given as far away as possible from an underlying primary on the contralateral side to avoid oncologic misdiagnosis followed by malpractice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.06.023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8233908PMC
September 2021

Integrating Patient Data Into Skin Cancer Classification Using Convolutional Neural Networks: Systematic Review.

J Med Internet Res 2021 Jul 2;23(7):e20708. Epub 2021 Jul 2.

Digital Biomarkers for Oncology Group (DBO), National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

Background: Recent years have been witnessing a substantial improvement in the accuracy of skin cancer classification using convolutional neural networks (CNNs). CNNs perform on par with or better than dermatologists with respect to the classification tasks of single images. However, in clinical practice, dermatologists also use other patient data beyond the visual aspects present in a digitized image, further increasing their diagnostic accuracy. Several pilot studies have recently investigated the effects of integrating different subtypes of patient data into CNN-based skin cancer classifiers.

Objective: This systematic review focuses on the current research investigating the impact of merging information from image features and patient data on the performance of CNN-based skin cancer image classification. This study aims to explore the potential in this field of research by evaluating the types of patient data used, the ways in which the nonimage data are encoded and merged with the image features, and the impact of the integration on the classifier performance.

Methods: Google Scholar, PubMed, MEDLINE, and ScienceDirect were screened for peer-reviewed studies published in English that dealt with the integration of patient data within a CNN-based skin cancer classification. The search terms skin cancer classification, convolutional neural network(s), deep learning, lesions, melanoma, metadata, clinical information, and patient data were combined.

Results: A total of 11 publications fulfilled the inclusion criteria. All of them reported an overall improvement in different skin lesion classification tasks with patient data integration. The most commonly used patient data were age, sex, and lesion location. The patient data were mostly one-hot encoded. There were differences in the complexity that the encoded patient data were processed with regarding deep learning methods before and after fusing them with the image features for a combined classifier.

Conclusions: This study indicates the potential benefits of integrating patient data into CNN-based diagnostic algorithms. However, how exactly the individual patient data enhance classification performance, especially in the case of multiclass classification problems, is still unclear. Moreover, a substantial fraction of patient data used by dermatologists remains to be analyzed in the context of CNN-based skin cancer classification. Further exploratory analyses in this promising field may optimize patient data integration into CNN-based skin cancer diagnostics for patients' benefits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/20708DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8285747PMC
July 2021

Pyrexia in patients treated with dabrafenib plus trametinib across clinical trials in BRAF-mutant cancers.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Aug 2;153:234-241. Epub 2021 Jul 2.

Department of Medical Oncology, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Royal North Shore and Mater Hospitals, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Background: Dabrafenib plus trametinib has demonstrated clinical benefit across multiple BRAF-mutant tumours, leading to approval for resected stage III and metastatic melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Pyrexia is a common adverse event in patients treated with dabrafenib plus trametinib. Here, we characterise the incidence, patterns and management of pyrexia in patients receiving dabrafenib plus trametinib in clinical trials.

Methods: Patients (N = 1076) included in the analysis received dabrafenib plus trametinib in the following clinical trials: phase II registration trial in advanced NSCLC (N = 82), phase III COMBI-AD study in resectable stage III melanoma (N = 435) and phase III COMBI-d and COMBI-v studies in unresectable or metastatic melanoma (N = 209 and N = 350, respectively).

Results: Among the 1076 patients enrolled in the clinical trials, 61.3% developed pyrexia, 5.7% developed grade 3/4 pyrexia and 15.6% developed a protocol-defined serious pyrexia event. Among the 660 patients with pyrexia, 33.0% had 1 occurrence, 19.8% had 2 occurrences and 47.1% had ≥3 occurrences. The incidence of pyrexia was highest early in treatment and decreased with time on treatment. Temporary dose interruption of dabrafenib or trametinib was the most common and effective management strategy.

Conclusions: Pyrexia is the most common adverse event associated with dabrafenib plus trametinib but is manageable with dose interruption.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov (Phase II NSCLC, NCT01336634; COMBI-AD, NCT01682083; COMBI-d, NCT01584648; COMBI-v, NCT01597908).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.05.005DOI Listing
August 2021

Early Exanthema Upon Vemurafenib Plus Cobimetinib Is Associated With a Favorable Treatment Outcome in Metastatic Melanoma: A Retrospective Multicenter DeCOG Study.

Front Oncol 2021 24;11:672172. Epub 2021 May 24.

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Essen, Germany.

Background: The combination of BRAF and MEK inhibitors has become standard of care in the treatment of metastatic BRAF V600-mutated melanoma. Clinical factors for an early prediction of tumor response are rare. The present study investigated the association between the development of an early exanthema induced by vemurafenib or vemurafenib plus cobimetinib and therapy outcome.

Methods: This multicenter retrospective study included patients with BRAF V600-mutated irresectable AJCC-v8 stage IIIC/D to IV metastatic melanoma who received treatment with vemurafenib (VEM) or vemurafenib plus cobimetinib (COBIVEM). The development of an early exanthema within six weeks after therapy start and its grading according to CTCAEv4.0 criteria was correlated to therapy outcome in terms of best overall response, progression-free (PFS), and overall survival (OS).

Results: A total of 422 patients from 16 centers were included (VEM, n=299; COBIVEM, n=123). 20.4% of VEM and 43.1% of COBIVEM patients developed an early exanthema. In the VEM cohort, objective responders (CR/PR) more frequently presented with an early exanthema than non-responders (SD/PD); 59.0% versus 38.7%; p=0.0027. However, median PFS and OS did not differ between VEM patients with or without an early exanthema (PFS, 6.9 versus 6.0 months, p=0.65; OS, 11.0 versus 12.4 months, p=0.69). In the COBIVEM cohort, 66.0% of objective responders had an early exanthema compared to 54.3% of non-responders (p=0.031). Median survival times were significantly longer for patients who developed an early exanthema compared to patients who did not (PFS, 9.7 versus 5.6 months, p=0.013; OS, not reached versus 11.6 months, p=0.0061). COBIVEM patients with a mild early exanthema (CTCAEv4.0 grade 1-2) had a superior survival outcome as compared to COBIVEM patients with a severe (CTCAEv4.0 grade 3-4) or non early exanthema, respectively (p=0.047). This might be caused by the fact that 23.6% of patients with severe exanthema underwent a dose reduction or discontinuation of COBIVEM compared to only 8.9% of patients with mild exanthema.

Conclusions: The development of an early exanthema within 6 weeks after treatment start indicates a favorable therapy outcome upon vemurafenib plus cobimetinib. Patients presenting with an early exanthema should therefore be treated with adequate supportive measures to provide that patients can stay on treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2021.672172DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8183381PMC
May 2021

Role of Tumor-Infiltrating B Cells in Clinical Outcome of Patients with Melanoma Treated With Dabrafenib Plus Trametinib.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 Aug 9;27(16):4500-4510. Epub 2021 Jun 9.

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.

Purpose: Although patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma can experience long-term survival with BRAF- and MEK-targeted agents or immune checkpoint inhibitors over 5 years, resistance develops in most patients. There is a distinct lack of pretherapeutic biomarkers to identify which patients are likely to benefit from each therapy type. Most research has focused on the predictive role of T cells in antitumor responses as opposed to B cells.

Patients And Methods: We conducted prespecified exploratory biomarker analysis using gene expression profiling and digital pathology in 146 patients with previously untreated V600-mutant metastatic melanoma from the randomized, phase III COMBI-v trial and treated with dabrafenib plus trametinib who had available tumor specimens from screening.

Results: Baseline cell-cycle gene expression signature was associated with progression-free survival ( = 0.007). Patients with high T-cell/low B-cell gene signatures had improved median overall survival (not reached [95% confidence interval (CI), 33.8 months-not reached]) compared with patients with high T-cell/high B-cell signatures (19.1 months; 95% CI, 13.4-38.6 months). Patients with high B-cell signatures had high B-cell infiltration into the tumor compartment, corresponding with decreased MAPK activity and increased expression of immunosuppressive markers.

Conclusions: B cells may serve as a potential biomarker to predict clinical outcome in patients with advanced melanoma treated with dabrafenib plus trametinib. As separate studies have shown an opposite effect for B-cell levels and response to immunotherapy, B cells may serve as a potential biomarker to facilitate treatment selection. Further validation in a larger patient cohort is needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-3586DOI Listing
August 2021

Clinical characteristics and therapy response in unresectable melanoma patients stage IIIB-IIID with in-transit and satellite metastases.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Jul 5;152:139-154. Epub 2021 Jun 5.

Dept. of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Hufelandstr. 55, 45122, Essen, Germany; German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Heidelberg, Germany.

Introduction: Cutaneous melanoma is notorious for the development of in-transit metastases (ITM). For unknown biological reasons, ITM remain the leading tumour manifestation without progression to distant sites in some patients.

Methods: In total, 191 patients with initially unresectable stage III ITM and satellite metastases from 16 skin cancer centres were retrospectively evaluated for their tumour characteristics, survival and therapy response. Three groups according to disease kinetics (no distant progress, slow (>6 months) and fast (<6 months) distant progression) were analysed separately.

Results: Median follow-up time was 30.5 (range 0.8-154.0) months from unresectable ITM. Progression to stage IV was observed in 56.5% of cases. Patients without distant metastasis were more often female, older (>70 years) and presented as stage III with lymph node or ITM at initial diagnosis in 45.7% of cases. Melanoma located on the leg had a significantly better overall survival (OS) from time of initial diagnosis compared to non-leg localised primaries (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.40-0.91; p = 0.017), but not from diagnosis of unresectable stage III (HR = 0.67, 95% CI 0.45-1.02; p = 0.06). Forty percent of patients received local therapy for satellite and ITM. Overall response rate (ORR) to all local first-line treatments was 38%; disease control rate (DCR) was 49%. In total, 72.3% of patients received systemic therapy for unresectable stage IIIB-D. ORR for targeted therapy (n = 19) was highest with 63.2% and DCR was 84.2% compared to an ORR of 31.4% and a DCR of 54.3% in PD-1 treated patients (n = 70). Patients receiving PD-1 and intralesional talimogene laherparepvec (n = 12) had an ORR of 41.7% and a DCR of 75%.

Conclusion: Patients with unresectable ITM and without distant progression are more often female, older, and have a primary on the leg. Response to PD-1 inhibitors in this cohort was lower than expected, but further investigation is required to elucidate the biology of ITM development and the interplay with the immune system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.04.032DOI Listing
July 2021

Quality of life in patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma receiving the combination encorafenib plus binimetinib: Results from a multicentre, open-label, randomised, phase III study (COLUMBUS).

Eur J Cancer 2021 Jul 4;152:116-128. Epub 2021 Jun 4.

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

Background: In COLUMBUS, treatment with encorafenib plus binimetinib in patients with advanced BRAF-mutant melanoma showed improved progression-free and overall survival with favourable tolerability compared to vemurafenib treatment. Here, results on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) are presented.

Methods: COLUMBUS was a two-part, open-label, randomised, phase III study in patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma. In PART-I, 577 patients were randomised (1:1:1) to encorafenib plus binimetinib, encorafenib or vemurafenib. The primary objective was to assess progression-free survival. As a secondary objective, HRQoL was assessed by the EQ-5D, the EORTC QLQ-C30 and the FACT-M questionnaires. Furthermore, time to definitive 10% deterioration was estimated with a Kaplan-Meier analysis and differences in mean scores between groups were calculated with a mixed-effect model for repeated measures. Hospitalisation rate and the impact of hospitalisation on HRQoL were also assessed.

Results: Patients receiving the combination treatment showed improvement of their FACT-M and EORTC QLQ-C30 global health status scores, compared to those receiving vemurafenib (post-baseline score differences: 3.03 [p < 0.0001] for FACT M and 5.28 [p = 0.0042] for EORTC QLQ-C30), indicative of a meaningful change in patient's status. Furthermore, a delay in the deterioration of QoL was observed in non-hospitalised patients compared to hospitalised patients (hazard ratio [95% CI]: 1.16 [0.80; 1.68] for EORTC QLQ-C30 and 1.27 [0.81; 1.99] for FACT-M) and a risk reduction of 10% deterioration, favoured the combination in both groups.

Conclusion: The improved efficacy of encorafenib plus binimetinib compared to vemurafenib, translates into a positive impact on the perceived health status as assessed by the HRQoL questionnaires. The study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01909453 and EudraCT number 2013-001176-38.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.04.028DOI Listing
July 2021

Factors Influencing the Adjuvant Therapy Decision: Results of a Real-World Multicenter Data Analysis of 904 Melanoma Patients.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 May 12;13(10). Epub 2021 May 12.

Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, University Hospital Essen, 45147 Essen, Germany.

Adjuvant treatment of melanoma patients with immune-checkpoint inhibition (ICI) and targeted therapy (TT) significantly improved recurrence-free survival. This study investigates the real-world situation of 904 patients from 13 German skin cancer centers with an indication for adjuvant treatment since the approval of adjuvant ICI and TT. From adjusted log-binomial regression models, we estimated relative risks for associations between various influence factors and treatment decisions (adjuvant therapy yes/no, TT vs. ICI in mutant patients). Of these patients, 76.9% (95% CI 74-80) opted for a systemic adjuvant treatment. The probability of starting an adjuvant treatment was 26% lower in patients >65 years (RR 0.74, 95% CI 68-80). The most common reasons against adjuvant treatment given by patients were age (29.4%, 95% CI 24-38), and fear of adverse events (21.1%, 95% CI 16-28) and impaired quality of life (11.9%, 95% CI 7-16). Of all -mutated patients who opted for adjuvant treatment, 52.9% (95% CI 47-59) decided for ICI. Treatment decision for TT or ICI was barely associated with age, gender and tumor stage, but with comorbidities and affiliated center. Shortly after their approval, adjuvant treatments have been well accepted by physicians and patients. Age plays a decisive role in the decision for adjuvant treatment, while pre-existing autoimmune disease and regional differences influence the choice between TT or ICI.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13102319DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8151445PMC
May 2021

Discontinuation of BRAF/MEK-Directed Targeted Therapy after Complete Remission of Metastatic Melanoma-A Retrospective Multicenter ADOReg Study.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 May 12;13(10). Epub 2021 May 12.

Department of Dermatology, University Medical Center Mainz, 55131 Mainz, Germany.

The advent of BRAF/MEK inhibitors (BRAFi/MEKi) has significantly improved progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) for patients with advanced BRAF-V600-mutant melanoma. Long-term survivors have been identified particularly among patients with a complete response (CR) to BRAF/MEK-directed targeted therapy (TT). However, it remains unclear which patients who achieved a CR maintain a durable response and whether treatment cessation might be a safe option in these patients. Therefore, this study investigated the impact of treatment cessation on the clinical course of patients with a CR upon BRAF/MEK-directed-TT. We retrospectively selected patients with BRAF-V600-mutant advanced non-resectable melanoma who had been treated with BRAFi ± MEKi therapy and achieved a CR upon treatment out of the multicentric skin cancer registry ADOReg. Data on baseline patient characteristics, duration of TT, treatment cessation, tumor progression (TP) and response to second-line treatments were collected and analyzed. Of 461 patients who received BRAF/MEK-directed TT 37 achieved a CR. TP after initial CR was observed in 22 patients (60%) mainly affecting patients who discontinued TT (n = 22/26), whereas all patients with ongoing TT (n = 11) maintained their CR. Accordingly, patients who discontinued TT had a higher risk of TP compared to patients with ongoing treatment ( < 0.001). However, our data also show that patients who received TT for more than 16 months and who discontinued TT for other reasons than TP or toxicity did not have a shorter PFS compared to patients with ongoing treatment. Response rates to second-line treatment being initiated in 21 patients, varied between 27% for immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) and 60% for BRAFi/MEKi rechallenge. In summary, we identified a considerable number of patients who achieved a CR upon BRAF/MEK-directed TT in this contemporary real-world cohort of patients with BRAF-V600-mutant melanoma. Sustained PFS was not restricted to ongoing TT but was also found in patients who discontinued TT.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13102312DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8151093PMC
May 2021

Male fertility during and after immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy: A cross-sectional pilot study.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Jul 29;152:41-48. Epub 2021 May 29.

Department of Dermatology and National Center for Tumor Diseases, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are widely used and may induce long-term survival in various types of cancer. Yet, there is scarce evidence on potential effects on patient fertility and the necessity of cryopreservation before treatment onset. The aim of our study was to assess the prevalence of male infertility after initiation of ICI treatment.

Methods: This is a monocenter, cross-sectional pilot study. Fertility was investigated by spermiogram, analysis of sexual hormones and questionnaires on sexual function and sexual activity. Male patients under the age of 60 years previously or currently treated with ICI for cutaneous malignancies or uveal melanoma were included.

Results: Twenty-five patients were included, with a median age of 49 years. Eighteen of 22 (82%) available spermiograms showed no pathologies, all patients reported a normal sexual function and sexual activity. Of four patients with pathological spermiogram, three patients were diagnosed with azoospermia and one with oligoasthenoteratozoospermia. Three patients had significant confounding factors (previous inguinal radiotherapy, chemotherapy and chronic alcohol abuse, and bacterial orchitis). One patient with normal spermiogram before ICI treatment presented 1 year after initiation with azoospermia, showing an asymptomatic, inflammatory infiltrate with predominantly neutrophil granulocytes, macrophages and T-lymphocytes in the ejaculate. Infectious causes were ruled out; andrological examination was unremarkable. A second case with reduced sperm counts during treatment may be ICI-induced also.

Conclusions: Most patients had no restrictions in fertility, yet an inflammatory loss of spermatogenesis seems possible. Cryopreservation should be discussed with all patients with potential future desire for children before treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.04.031DOI Listing
July 2021

GNA14, GNA11, and GNAQ Mutations Are Frequent in Benign but Not Malignant Cutaneous Vascular Tumors.

Front Genet 2021 30;12:663272. Epub 2021 Apr 30.

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, University Duisburg-Essen and German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Essen, Germany.

Cutaneous vascular tumors consist of a heterogeneous group of benign proliferations, including a range of hemangiomas and vascular malformations, as well as heterogeneous groups of both borderline and malignant neoplasms such as Kaposi's sarcoma and angiosarcomas. The genetics of these tumors have been assessed independently in smaller individual cohorts making comparisons difficult. In our study, we analyzed a representative cohort of benign vascular proliferations observed in a clinical routine setting as well as a selection of malignant vascular proliferations. Our cohort of 104 vascular proliferations including hemangiomas, malformations, angiosarcomas and Kaposi's sarcoma were screened by targeted next-generation sequencing for activating genetic mutations known or assumed to be potentially relevant in vascular proliferations. An association analysis was performed for mutation status and clinico-pathological parameters. Frequent activating hotspot mutations in genes, including Q205, and Q209 were identified in 16 of 64 benign vascular tumors (25%). gene mutations were particularly frequent (52%) in cherry (senile) hemangiomas (13 of 25). In angiosarcomas, activating mutations ( and ) were identified in three samples (16%). No activating or gene mutations were identified in Kaposi's sarcomas. Our study identifies Q205, and Q209 mutations as being the most common and mutually exclusive mutations in benign hemangiomas. These mutations were not identified in malignant vascular tumors, which could be of potential diagnostic value in distinguishing these entities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2021.663272DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8141909PMC
April 2021

Metastatic pigmented epithelioid melanocytoma in a 7-year-old female.

J Dtsch Dermatol Ges 2021 Aug 24;19(8):1217-1219. Epub 2021 May 24.

Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, University Hospital Essen, University School of Medicine Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ddg.14523DOI Listing
August 2021

Computed tomography-guided biopsy of radiologically unclear lesions in advanced skin cancer: A retrospective analysis of 47 cases.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Jun 23;150:119-129. Epub 2021 Apr 23.

Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany; German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research, Partner Site University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany.

Background: Radiological imaging such as computed tomography (CT) is used frequently for disease staging and therapy monitoring in advanced skin cancer patients. Detected lesions of unclear dignity are a common challenge for treating physicians. The aim of this study was to assess the frequency and outcome of CT-guided biopsy (CTGB) of radiologically unclear, suspicious lesions and to depict its usefulness in different clinical settings.

Methods: This retrospective monocentric study included advanced skin cancer patients (melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, angiosarcoma, cutaneous lymphoma) with radiologically unclear lesions who underwent CTGB between 2010 and 2018.

Results: Of 59 skin cancer patients who received CTGB, 47 received CTGB to clarify radiologically suspicious lesions of unclear dignity. 32 patients had no systemic therapy (cohort A), while 15 patients received systemic treatment at CTGB (cohort B). In both cohorts, CTGB revealed skin cancer metastasis in a large proportion of patients (37.5%, 40.0%, respectively), but benign tissue showing inflammation, fibrosis or infection in an equally large percentage (37.5%, 46.7%, respectively). Additionally, a significant number of other cancer entities was found (25.0%, 13.3%, respectively). In patients receiving BRAF/MEK inhibitors, CTGB confirmed suspicious lesions as skin cancer metastasis in 83.3%, leading to treatment change. In immune checkpoint inhibitor-treated patients, skin cancer metastasis was confirmed in 11.1% of patients only, whereas benign tissue changes (inflammation/fibrosis) were found in 77.8%.

Conclusions: Our results highlight the relevance of clarifying radiologically unclear lesions by CTGB before start or change of an anti-tumour therapy to exclude benign alterations and secondary malignancies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.03.026DOI Listing
June 2021

Adjuvant pembrolizumab versus placebo in resected stage III melanoma (EORTC 1325-MG/KEYNOTE-054): health-related quality-of-life results from a double-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial.

Lancet Oncol 2021 05 12;22(5):655-664. Epub 2021 Apr 12.

EORTC Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium.

Background: The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) 1325-MG/KEYNOTE-054 trial in patients with resected, high-risk stage III melanoma demonstrated improved recurrence-free survival with adjuvant pembrolizumab compared with placebo (hazard ratio 0·57 [98·4% CI 0·43-0·74]; p<0·0001). This study reports the results from the health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) exploratory endpoint.

Methods: This double-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial was done at 123 academic centres and community hospitals across 23 countries. Patients aged 18 years or older with previously untreated histologically confirmed stage IIIA, IIIB, or IIIC resected cutaneous melanoma, and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status score of 1 or 0 were eligible. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) using a central interactive voice-response system on the basis of a minimisation technique stratified for stage and geographic region to receive intravenously 200 mg pembrolizumab or placebo. Treatment was administered every 3 weeks for 1 year, or until disease recurrence, unacceptable toxicity, or death. The primary endpoint of the trial was recurrence-free survival (reported elsewhere). HRQOL was a prespecified exploratory endpoint, with global health/quality of life (GHQ) over 2 years measured by the EORTC QLQ-C30 as the primary analysis. Analyses were done in the intention-to-treat population. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02362594, and EudraCT, 2014-004944-37, and long-term follow-up is ongoing.

Findings: Between Aug 26, 2015, and Nov 14, 2016, 1019 patients were assigned to pembrolizumab (n=514) or placebo (n=505). Median follow-up was 15·1 months (IQR 12·8-16·9) at the time of this analysis. HRQOL compliance was greater than 90% at baseline, greater than 70% during the first year, and greater than 60% thereafter for both groups. Because of low absolute compliance numbers at later follow-up, the analysis was truncated to week 84. Baseline GHQ scores were similar between groups (77·55 [SD 18·20] in the pembrolizumab group and 76·54 [17·81] in the placebo group) and remained stable over time. The difference in average GHQ score between the two groups over the 2 years was -2·2 points (95% CI -4·3 to -0·2). The difference in average score during treatment was -1·1 points (95% CI -3·2 to 0·9) and the difference in average score after treatment was -2·2 points (-4·8 to 0·4). These differences are within the 5-point clinical relevance threshold for the QLQ-C30 and are therefore clinically non-significant.

Interpretation: Pembrolizumab does not result in a clinically significant decrease in HRQOL compared with placebo when given as adjuvant therapy for patients with resected, high-risk stage III melanoma. These results support the use of adjuvant pembrolizumab in this setting.

Funding: Merck Sharp & Dohme.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00081-4DOI Listing
May 2021

Adjuvant pembrolizumab versus placebo in resected stage III melanoma (EORTC 1325-MG/KEYNOTE-054): distant metastasis-free survival results from a double-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial.

Lancet Oncol 2021 05 12;22(5):643-654. Epub 2021 Apr 12.

EORTC Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium.

Background: The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) 1325/KEYNOTE-054 trial assessed pembrolizumab versus placebo in patients with resected high-risk stage III melanoma. At 15-month median follow-up, pembrolizumab improved recurrence-free survival (hazard ratio [HR] 0·57 [98·4% CI 0·43-0·74], p<0·0001) compared with placebo, leading to its approval in the USA and Europe. This report provides the final results for the secondary efficacy endpoint, distant metastasis-free survival and an update of the recurrence-free survival results.

Methods: This double-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial was done at 123 academic centres and community hospitals across 23 countries. Patients aged 18 years or older with complete resection of cutaneous melanoma metastatic to lymph node, classified as American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system, seventh edition (AJCC-7) stage IIIA (at least one lymph node metastasis >1 mm), IIIB, or IIIC (without in-transit metastasis), and with an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1 were eligible. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) via a central interactive voice response system to receive intravenous pembrolizumab 200 mg or placebo every 3 weeks for up to 18 doses or until disease recurrence or unacceptable toxicity. Randomisation was stratified according to disease stage and region, using a minimisation technique, and clinical investigators, patients, and those collecting or analysing the data were masked to treatment assignment. The two coprimary endpoints were recurrence-free survival in the intention-to-treat (ITT) population and in patients with PD-L1-positive tumours. The secondary endpoint reported here was distant metastasis-free survival in the ITT and PD-L1-positive populations. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02362594, and EudraCT, 2014-004944-37.

Findings: Between Aug 26, 2015, and Nov 14, 2016, 1019 patients were assigned to receive either pembrolizumab (n=514) or placebo (n=505). At an overall median follow-up of 42·3 months (IQR 40·5-45·9), 3·5-year distant metastasis-free survival was higher in the pembrolizumab group than in the placebo group in the ITT population (65·3% [95% CI 60·9-69·5] in the pembrolizumab group vs 49·4% [44·8-53·8] in the placebo group; HR 0·60 [95% CI 0·49-0·73]; p<0·0001). In the 853 patients with PD-L1-positive tumours, 3·5-year distant metastasis-free survival was 66·7% (95% CI 61·8-71·2) in the pembrolizumab group and 51·6% (46·6-56·4) in the placebo group (HR 0·61 [95% CI 0·49-0·76]; p<0·0001). Recurrence-free survival remained longer in the pembrolizumab group 59·8% (95% CI 55·3-64·1) than the placebo group 41·4% (37·0-45·8) at this 3·5-year follow-up in the ITT population (HR 0·59 [95% CI 0·49-0·70]) and in those with PD-L1-positive tumours 61·4% (56·3-66·1) in the pembrolizumab group and 44·1% (39·2-48·8) in the placebo group (HR 0·59 [95% CI 0·49-0·73]).

Interpretation: Pembrolizumab adjuvant therapy provided a significant and clinically meaningful improvement in distant metastasis-free survival at a 3·5-year median follow-up, which was consistent with the improvement in recurrence-free survival. Therefore, the results of this trial support the indication to use adjuvant pembrolizumab therapy in patients with resected high risk stage III cutaneous melanoma.

Funding: Merck Sharp & Dohme.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00065-6DOI Listing
May 2021

Combining CNN-based histologic whole slide image analysis and patient data to improve skin cancer classification.

Eur J Cancer 2021 May 7;149:94-101. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Digital Biomarkers for Oncology Group, National Center for Tumor Diseases, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.

Background: Clinicians and pathologists traditionally use patient data in addition to clinical examination to support their diagnoses.

Objectives: We investigated whether a combination of histologic whole slides image (WSI) analysis based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs) and commonly available patient data (age, sex and anatomical site of the lesion) in a binary melanoma/nevus classification task could increase the performance compared with CNNs alone.

Methods: We used 431 WSIs from two different laboratories and analysed the performance of classifiers that used the image or patient data individually or three common fusion techniques. Furthermore, we tested a naive combination of patient data and an image classifier: for cases interpreted as 'uncertain' (CNN output score <0.7), the decision of the CNN was replaced by the decision of the patient data classifier.

Results: The CNN on its own achieved the best performance (mean ± standard deviation of five individual runs) with AUROC of 92.30% ± 0.23% and balanced accuracy of 83.17% ± 0.38%. While the classification performance was not significantly improved in general by any of the tested fusions, naive strategy of replacing the image classifier with the patient data classifier on slides with low output scores improved balanced accuracy to 86.72% ± 0.36%.

Conclusion: In most cases, the CNN on its own was so accurate that patient data integration did not provide any benefit. However, incorporating patient data for lesions that were classified by the CNN with low 'confidence' improved balanced accuracy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.02.032DOI Listing
May 2021

Melanoma Differentiation Trajectories Determine Sensitivity Toward Pre-Existing CD8 Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes.

J Invest Dermatol 2021 Mar 30. Epub 2021 Mar 30.

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen, University Duisburg-Essen and German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Partner Site Essen/Düsseldorf, Essen, Germany. Electronic address:

The highly plastic nature of melanoma enables its transition among diverse cell states to survive hostile conditions. However, the interplay between specific tumor cell states and intratumoral T cells remains poorly defined. With MAPK inhibitor‒treated BRAF-mutant tumors as models, we linked human melanoma state transition to CD8 T cell responses. Repeatedly, we observed that isogenic melanoma cells could evolve along distinct differentiation trajectories on single BRAF inhibitor (BRAFi) treatment or dual BRAFi/MEKi treatment, resulting in BRAFi‒induced hyperdifferentiated and BRAFi/MEKi‒induced dedifferentiated resistant subtypes. Taking advantage of patient-derived autologous CD8 tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), we demonstrate that progressive melanoma cell state transition profoundly affects TIL function. Tumor cells along the hyperdifferentiation trajectory continuously gained sensitivity toward tumor-reactive CD8 TILs, whereas those in the dedifferentiation trajectory acquired T cell resistance in part owing to the loss of differentiation antigens. Overall, our data reveal the tight connection of MAPKi‒induced temporary (drug-tolerant transition state) and stable (resistant state) phenotype alterations with T cell function and further broaden the current knowledge on melanoma plasticity in terms of sculpting local antitumor immune responses, with implications for guiding the optimal combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jid.2021.03.013DOI Listing
March 2021
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