Publications by authors named "Michael B Atkins"

260 Publications

PET/CT scan and biopsy-driven approach for safe anti-PD-1 therapy discontinuation in patients with advanced melanoma.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 Oct;9(10)

Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

Background: Limited data exist on safe discontinuation of antiprogrammed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) therapy in responding patients with advanced melanoma. The use of 18fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET/CT scan and tumor biopsy for assessment of active disease may be an effective predictive biomarker to guide such treatment decisions.

Methods: A retrospective study of 122 patients with advanced melanoma treated with anti-PD-1 monotherapy or anti-PD-1/anticytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 combination therapy at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center was conducted. Uveal melanoma patients and those receiving concurrent experimental therapy were excluded. Baseline characteristics, treatment outcomes, and survival were analyzed. Patients who decided to come off treatment typically after 12 months using CT scan radiographic complete response (CR), FDG-PET/CT scan complete metabolic response (CMR) or tumor biopsy of a non-CR/CMR tumor site negative for active disease (possible pathological CR) were identified and compared with patients who discontinued treatment due to toxicity while their disease was in control. Event-free survival (EFS) was assessed from the last dose of anti-PD-1 therapy to progression requiring subsequent treatment (surgery, radiation, and/or systemic therapy) or referral to hospice/death due to melanoma.

Results: 24 (20%) patients discontinued treatment by choice with no active disease and 28 (23%) patients discontinued treatment due to toxicity with disease control after 12-month and 4-month median treatment durations, respectively. Similar baseline characteristics were observed between cohorts except higher prior receipt of ipilimumab (29% vs 7%; p=0.036) and fewer BRAF mutant positive disease (17% vs 41%; p=0.064) in patients off treatment by choice. Three-year EFS rates were 95% and 71%, respectively. No significant associations between EFS and sex, disease stage, lactate dehydrogenase elevation, BRAF status, prior systemic therapy, ECOG performance status, presence of brain metastases, or combination versus monotherapy were observed. Tumor biopsies led to alternative management in 3/10 patients due to active metastatic melanoma or second malignancy.

Conclusions: Anti-PD-1 therapy discontinuation after 12 months when no active disease is observed on CT scan, PET/CT scan or tumor biopsy may have low rates of disease relapse in patients with advanced melanoma. Biopsy of residual disease may frequently lead to a change in management. These findings are undergoing validation in the EA6192 trial.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2021-002955DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8488718PMC
October 2021

Characterization and Management of Treatment-emergent Hepatic Toxicity in Patients with Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma Receiving First-line Pembrolizumab plus Axitinib. Results from the KEYNOTE-426 Trial.

Eur Urol Oncol 2021 Jul 6. Epub 2021 Jul 6.

Barts Health and the Royal Free NHS Trusts, Barts Cancer Institute, and Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.

Background: Pembrolizumab plus axitinib improved efficacy over sunitinib in treatment-naive advanced renal cell carcinoma in the KEYNOTE-426 (NCT02853331) study. However, a relatively high incidence of grade 3/4 aminotransferase elevations was observed.

Objective: To further characterize treatment-emergent aminotransferase elevations in patients treated with pembrolizumab-axitinib.

Design, Setting, And Participants: Patients enrolled in KEYNOTE-426 were included in this study.

Outcome Measurements And Statistical Analysis: Three Standardized MedDRA Queries for potential hepatic disorders were used to identify patients for the hepatic event analysis subpopulation (HEAS). Alanine aminotransferase events were characterized for time to onset, time to recovery, corticosteroid use, and rechallenge with study treatment(s).

Results And Limitations: The HEAS comprised 189/429 (44%) pembrolizumab-axitinib patients and 128/425 (30%) sunitinib patients. Grade 3/4 hepatic adverse events were more common in the combination arm: 22% (94/429) versus 7% (29/425); 3% (13/429) discontinued the combination due to hepatic adverse events. In the pembrolizumab-axitinib arm, 125/426 patients (29%) had alanine aminotransferase (ALT) ≥3× upper limit of normal (ULN), with median time to onset of 84 d (range, 7-840 d). Among patients with ALT ≥3× ULN, 120/125 (96%) recovered to <3× ULN following study treatment interruption/discontinuation, with a median time to recovery of 15 d (3-176 d): 68/120 (57%) received corticosteroids. One hundred patients were rechallenged with one or both study treatment(s): 45/100 (45%) had ALT ≥3× ULN recurrence, and all 45 recovered to ALT <3× ULN following study treatment interruption/discontinuation. No fatal hepatic events occurred.

Conclusions: A higher incidence of grade 3/4 aminotransferase elevations occurs with pembrolizumab-axitinib. These events should be carefully evaluated and managed with prompt study treatment interruption or discontinuation, with or without corticosteroid treatment. The decision to rechallenge with one or both drugs should be based on severity of event and thorough causality assessment.

Patient Summary: Renal cell carcinoma patients receiving pembrolizumab-axitinib are at a higher risk of liver enzyme elevations, which could be reversed with appropriate management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.euo.2021.05.007DOI Listing
July 2021

Automated Identification of Patients With Immune-Related Adverse Events From Clinical Notes Using Word Embedding and Machine Learning.

JCO Clin Cancer Inform 2021 05;5:541-549

Innovation Center for Biomedical Informatics (ICBI), Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Purpose: Although immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have substantially improved survival in patients with advanced malignancies, they are associated with a unique spectrum of side effects termed immune-related adverse events (irAEs). To ensure treatment safety, research efforts are needed to comprehensively detect and understand irAEs. Retrospective analysis of data from electronic health records can provide knowledge to characterize these toxicities. However, such information is not captured in a structured format within the electronic health record and requires manual chart review.

Materials And Methods: In this work, we propose a natural language processing pipeline that can automatically annotate clinical notes and determine whether there is evidence that a patient developed an irAE. Seven hundred eighty-one cases were manually reviewed by clinicians and annotated for irAEs at the patient level. A dictionary of irAEs keywords was used to perform text reduction on clinical notes belonging to each patient; only sentences with relevant expressions were kept. Word embeddings were then used to generate vector representations over the reduced text, which served as input for the machine learning classifiers. The output of the models was presence or absence of any irAEs. Additional models were built to classify skin-related toxicities, endocrine toxicities, and colitis.

Results: The model for any irAE achieved an average F1-score = 0.75 and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve = 0.85. This outperformed a basic keyword filtering approach. Although the classifier of any irAEs achieved good accuracy, individual irAE classification still has room for improvement.

Conclusion: We demonstrate that patient-level annotations combined with a machine learning approach using keywords filtering and word embeddings can achieve promising accuracy in classifying irAEs in clinical notes. This model may facilitate annotation and analysis of large irAEs data sets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/CCI.20.00109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8462565PMC
May 2021

Q-TWiST Analysis of Tivozanib Versus Sorafenib in Patients With Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma in the TIVO-3 Study.

Clin Genitourin Cancer 2021 10 3;19(5):468.e1-468.e5. Epub 2021 Apr 3.

Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.

Background: In TIVO-3, tivozanib increased progression-free survival with no difference in overall survival relative to sorafenib as third- or fourth-line therapy in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. We applied quality-adjusted time without symptoms of disease and toxicity (Q-TWiST) methods to quantify the net health benefits of tivozanib, in the presence of similar survival, when compared with sorafenib.

Methods: The mean Q-TWiST was calculated by applying utility coefficients of 0.5, 1.0, and 0.5 to the 36-month restricted mean health states of time with toxicity (TOX), TWiST, and time after progression/relapse, respectively. The relative Q-TWiST gain was defined as the mean absolute Q-TWiST difference divided by the sorafenib mean overall survival.

Results: The mean TWiST was longer for tivozanib than for sorafenib, mean time after progression/relapse was shorter for tivozanib, with no difference in mean TOX. Mean Q-TWiST was 15.04 months and 12.78 months for tivozanib and sorafenib, respectively (P = .0493). The tivozanib relative gain was 11.2%.

Discussion: Tivozanib increased Q-TWiST relative to sorafenib, primarily through an increase in TWiST, which is generally considered to be the highest utility state.

Conclusion: Q-TWiST may be considered an alternative patient-centered measure of benefit of tivozanib in as a third- or fourth-line therapy in patients with renal cell carcinoma.

Clinical Trial Information: NCT02627963.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clgc.2021.03.018DOI Listing
October 2021

Time to Resolution of Axitinib-Related Adverse Events After Treatment Interruption in Patients With Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Clin Genitourin Cancer 2021 10 5;19(5):e306-e312. Epub 2021 Apr 5.

Baylor Sammons Cancer Center-Texas Oncology, Dallas, TX.

Introduction: Combined axitinib and immuno-oncology (IO) therapy is approved for first-line advanced renal cell carcinoma. Overlapping toxicities represent a clinical challenge. Calculating the time to resolution (TTR) of common axitinib-related adverse events (AEs) after treatment interruption may help to identify AE etiology and determine appropriate management strategies.

Materials And Methods: Data from 5 randomized or single-arm axitinib monotherapy or combination studies were analyzed. Patients with histologically confirmed clear cell advanced renal cell carcinoma were pooled into 3 cohorts based on treatment received: axitinib monotherapy, axitinib + IO, and other tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). Any grade and grade ≥3 treatment-emergent diarrhea, fatigue, hypertension, nausea, and palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia syndrome were assessed. TTR was defined as the time from treatment interruption/discontinuation to resolution.

Results: The axitinib monotherapy cohort comprised 532 patients, the axitinib + IO cohort 541 patients, and the other TKI cohort 882 patients. Median TTR for all AEs (any grade) in the axitinib monotherapy cohort ranged from 1 to 3 days, except for fatigue (8 days). For diarrhea, hypertension, nausea, and palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia syndrome, median TTRs were longer in the axitinib + IO (4-11 days) and other TKI (7-8 days) cohorts versus the monotherapy cohort. Results were similar when only AEs of grade ≥3 were considered.

Conclusions: The TTR of monotherapeutic axitinib-related AEs is ≤3 days, except for fatigue, and generally shorter than for other single-agent TKIs and axitinib + IO. This has important implications for identifying AE etiology with combined axitinib-IO therapy and implementation of appropriate management strategies. ClinicalTrials.org identifiers: NCT00678392, NCT00920816, NCT02493751, NCT02684006, NCT02853331.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clgc.2021.03.019DOI Listing
October 2021

Targeting DDX3X Triggers Antitumor Immunity via a dsRNA-Mediated Tumor-Intrinsic Type I Interferon Response.

Cancer Res 2021 Jul 3;81(13):3607-3620. Epub 2021 May 3.

Department of Oncology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Induction of nucleic acid sensing-mediated type I interferon (IFN) has emerged as a novel approach to activate the immune system against cancer. Here we show that the depletion of DEAD-box RNA helicase 3X (DDX3X) triggers a tumor-intrinsic type I IFN response in breast cancer cells. Depletion or inhibition of DDX3X activity led to aberrant cytoplasmic accumulation of cellular endogenous double-stranded RNAs (dsRNA), which triggered type I IFN production through the melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MDA5)-mediated dsRNA-sensing pathway. Furthermore, DDX3X interacted with dsRNA-editing ADAR1 and dual depletion of DDX3X and ADAR1 synergistically activated the cytosolic dsRNA pathway in breast cancer cells. Loss of DDX3X in mouse mammary tumors enhanced antitumor activity by increasing the tumor-intrinsic type I IFN response, antigen presentation, and tumor infiltration of cytotoxic T and dendritic cells. These findings may lead to the development of a novel therapeutic approach for breast cancer by targeting DDX3X in combination with immune-checkpoint blockade. SIGNIFICANCE: This study elucidates the novel role of DDX3X in regulating endogenous cellular dsRNA homeostasis and type I IFN signaling in breast cancer. GRAPHICAL ABSTRACT: http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/canres/81/13/3607/F1.large.jpg.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-3790DOI Listing
July 2021

Safety and Efficacy of the Combination of Nivolumab Plus Ipilimumab in Patients With Melanoma and Asymptomatic or Symptomatic Brain Metastases (CheckMate 204).

Neuro Oncol 2021 Apr 21. Epub 2021 Apr 21.

Department of Medical Oncology, City of Hope, Duarte, CA.

Background: In patients with melanoma and asymptomatic brain metastases (MBM), nivolumab plus ipilimumab provided an intracranial response rate of 55%. Here, we present first report for patients who were symptomatic and/or required corticosteroids and updated data for asymptomatic patients.

Methods: Patients with measurable MBM, 0.5-3.0 cm, were enrolled into Cohort A (asymptomatic) or Cohort B (stable neurologic symptoms and/or receiving corticosteroids). Nivolumab, 1 mg/kg, and ipilimumab, 3 mg/kg, were given intravenously every 3 weeks x4, followed by nivolumab, 3 mg/kg, every 2 weeks until progression, unacceptable toxicity, or 24 months. The primary endpoint was intracranial clinical benefit rate (CBR; complete response [CR], partial response [PR], or stable disease ≥6 months).

Results: Symptomatic patients (N = 18) received a median of one nivolumab and ipilimumab combination dose, and had an intracranial CBR of 22.2%. Two of 12 patients on corticosteroids had CR; 2 responded among the 6 not on corticosteroids. Median intracranial progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were 1.2 and 8.7 months, respectively. In contrast, with 20.6 months of follow-up, we confirmed an intracranial CBR of 58.4% in asymptomatic patients (N = 101); median duration of response, PFS, and OS were not reached. No new safety signals were observed.

Conclusions: Nivolumab plus ipilimumab provides durable clinical benefit for asymptomatic patients with MBM and should be considered for first-line therapy. This regimen has limited activity in MBM patients with neurologic symptoms and/or requiring corticosteroids, supporting the need for alternative approaches and methods to reduce the dependency on corticosteroids.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/neuonc/noab094DOI Listing
April 2021

The "Great Debate" at Melanoma Bridge 2020: December, 5th, 2020.

J Transl Med 2021 04 7;19(1):142. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY, USA.

The Great Debate session at the 2020 Melanoma Bridge virtual congress (December 3rd-5th, Italy) featured counterpoint views from experts on five specific controversial issues in melanoma. The debates considered whether or not innate immunity is important in the response to cancer and immunotherapy, how useful are the revised American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) classification for the staging of patients, the use of sentinel node biopsy for staging patients, the use of triplet combination of targeted therapy plus immunotherapy versus combined immunotherapy, and the respective benefits of neoadjuvant versus adjuvant therapy. As is usual with Bridge congresses, the debates were assigned by meeting Chairs and positions taken by experts during the debates may not have necessarily reflected their own personal opinion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-021-02808-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8028182PMC
April 2021

Immunotherapy Utilization Among Patients With Metastatic NSCLC: Impact of Comorbidities.

J Immunother 2021 06;44(5):198-203

Department of Population Health Sciences.

In patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (mNSCLC), the extent to which immunotherapy utilization rate varies by comorbidities is unclear. Using the National Cancer Database from 2015 to 2016, we assessed the association between levels of comorbidity and immunotherapy utilization among mNSCLC patients. Burden of comorbidities was ascertained based on the modified Charlson-Deyo score and categorized as an ordinal variable (0, 1, and ≥2). Immunotherapy utilization was determined based on registry data. Multivariable logistic regressions were used to estimate adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the comorbidity score while adjusting for sociodemographic factors, histopathologic subtype, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, insurance, facility type, and other cancer history. Subgroup analyses were conducted by age and race/ethnicity. Overall, of the 89,030 patients with mNSCLC, 38.6% (N=34,382) had the comorbidity score of ≥1. Most patients were non-Hispanic white (82.3%, N=73,309) and aged 65 years and above (63.2%, N=56,300), with the mean age of 68.4 years (SD=10.6). Only 7.0% (N=6220) of patients received immunotherapy during 2015-2106. Patients with a comorbidity score of ≥2 had a significantly lower rate of immunotherapy utilization versus those without comorbidities (aOR=0.85; 95% CI, 0.78-0.93; P-trend<0.01). In subgroup analysis by age, association patterns were similar among patients younger than 65 and those aged 65-74 years. There were no significant differences in subgroup analysis by race/ethnicity, although statistical significance was only observed for white patients (comorbidity score ≥2 vs. 0: aOR=0.85; 95% CI, 0.77-0.93; P-trend<0.01). In conclusion, mNSCLC patients with a high burden of comorbidities are less likely to receive immunotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/CJI.0000000000000366DOI Listing
June 2021

Efficacy and Safety of Atezolizumab Plus Bevacizumab Following Disease Progression on Atezolizumab or Sunitinib Monotherapy in Patients with Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma in IMmotion150: A Randomized Phase 2 Clinical Trial.

Eur Urol 2021 05 5;79(5):665-673. Epub 2021 Mar 5.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.

Background: The use of immune checkpoint inhibitors combined with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-targeted therapy as second-line treatment for metastatic clear cell renal cancer (mRCC) has not been evaluated prospectively.

Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of atezolizumab + bevacizumab following disease progression on atezolizumab or sunitinib monotherapy in patients with mRCC.

Design, Setting, And Participants: IMmotion150 was a multicenter, randomized, open-label, phase 2 study of patients with untreated mRCC. Patients randomized to the atezolizumab or sunitinib arm who had investigator-assessed progression as per RECIST 1.1 could be treated with second-line atezolizumab + bevacizumab.

Intervention: Patients received atezolizumab 1200 mg intravenously (IV) plus bevacizumab 15 mg/kg IV every 3 wk following disease progression on either atezolizumab or sunitinib monotherapy.

Outcome Measurements And Statistical Analysis: The secondary endpoints analyzed during the second-line part of IMmotion150 included objective response rate (ORR), progression-free survival (PFS), and safety. PFS was examined using Kaplan-Meier methods.

Results And Limitations: Fifty-nine patients in the atezolizumab arm and 78 in the sunitinib arm were eligible, and 103 initiated second-line atezolizumab + bevacizumab (atezolizumab arm, n = 44; sunitinib arm, n = 59). ORR (95% confidence interval [CI]) was 27% (19-37%). The median PFS (95% CI) from the start of second line was 8.7 (5.6-13.7) mo. The median event follow-up duration was 19.4 (12.9-21.9) mo among the 25 patients without a PFS event. Eighty-six (83%) patients had treatment-related adverse events; 31 of 103 (30%) had grade 3/4 events. Limitations were the small sample size and selection for progressors.

Conclusions: The atezolizumab + bevacizumab combination had activity and was tolerable in patients with progression on atezolizumab or sunitinib. Further studies are needed to investigate sequencing strategies in mRCC.

Patient Summary: Patients with advanced kidney cancer whose disease had worsened during treatment with atezolizumab or sunitinib began second-line treatment with atezolizumab + bevacizumab. Tumors shrank in more than one-quarter of patients treated with this combination, and side effects were manageable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2021.01.003DOI Listing
May 2021

Integrative molecular characterization of sarcomatoid and rhabdoid renal cell carcinoma.

Nat Commun 2021 02 5;12(1):808. Epub 2021 Feb 5.

Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA.

Sarcomatoid and rhabdoid (S/R) renal cell carcinoma (RCC) are highly aggressive tumors with limited molecular and clinical characterization. Emerging evidence suggests immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) are particularly effective for these tumors, although the biological basis for this property is largely unknown. Here, we evaluate multiple clinical trial and real-world cohorts of S/R RCC to characterize their molecular features, clinical outcomes, and immunologic characteristics. We find that S/R RCC tumors harbor distinctive molecular features that may account for their aggressive behavior, including BAP1 mutations, CDKN2A deletions, and increased expression of MYC transcriptional programs. We show that these tumors are highly responsive to ICI and that they exhibit an immune-inflamed phenotype characterized by immune activation, increased cytotoxic immune infiltration, upregulation of antigen presentation machinery genes, and PD-L1 expression. Our findings build on prior work and shed light on the molecular drivers of aggressivity and responsiveness to ICI of S/R RCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21068-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7865061PMC
February 2021

Open-Label, Single-Arm, Phase II Study of Pembrolizumab Monotherapy as First-Line Therapy in Patients With Advanced Non-Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma.

J Clin Oncol 2021 03 2;39(9):1029-1039. Epub 2021 Feb 2.

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, DC.

Purpose: Programmed death 1 (PD-1) pathway inhibitors have not been prospectively evaluated in patients with non-clear cell renal cell carcinoma (nccRCC). The phase II KEYNOTE-427 study (cohort B) was conducted to assess the efficacy and safety of single-agent pembrolizumab, a PD-1 inhibitor, in advanced nccRCC.

Methods: Patients with histologically confirmed, measurable (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors [RECIST] version 1.1) nccRCC and no prior systemic therapy received pembrolizumab 200 mg intravenously once every 3 weeks for ≤ 24 months. The primary end point was objective response rate (ORR) per RECIST v1.1.

Results: Among enrolled patients (N = 165), 71.5% had confirmed papillary, 12.7% had chromophobe, and 15.8% had unclassified RCC histology. Most patients (67.9%) had intermediate or poor International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium risk status and tumors with programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) combined positive score (CPS) ≥ 1 (61.8%). The median time from enrollment to database cutoff was 31.5 months (range, 22.7-38.8). In all patients, the ORR was 26.7%. The median duration of response was 29.0 months; 59.7% of responses lasted ≥ 12 months. The ORR by CPS ≥ 1 and CPS < 1 status was 35.3% and 12.1%, respectively. The ORR by histology was 28.8% for papillary, 9.5% for chromophobe, and 30.8% for unclassified. Overall, the median progression-free survival was 4.2 months (95% CI, 2.9 to 5.6); the 24-month rate was 18.6%. The median overall survival was 28.9 months (95% CI, 24.3 months to not reached); the 24-month rate was 58.4%. Overall, 69.7% of patients reported treatment-related adverse events, most commonly pruritus (20.0%) and hypothyroidism (14.5%). Two deaths were treatment related (pneumonitis and cardiac arrest).

Conclusion: First-line pembrolizumab monotherapy showed promising antitumor activity in nccRCC. The safety profile was similar to that observed in other tumor types.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.20.02365DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8078262PMC
March 2021

Open-Label, Single-Arm Phase II Study of Pembrolizumab Monotherapy as First-Line Therapy in Patients With Advanced Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma.

J Clin Oncol 2021 03 2;39(9):1020-1028. Epub 2021 Feb 2.

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, DC.

Purpose: Pembrolizumab, a programmed death 1 inhibitor, demonstrated promising single-agent activity in untreated patients with various cancer types. The phase II KEYNOTE-427 study evaluated efficacy and safety of single-agent pembrolizumab in treatment-naive patients with advanced clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC; cohort A) and advanced non-ccRCC (cohort B). Results of cohort A are reported.

Methods: In this open-label, single-arm phase II study, patients with advanced ccRCC received pembrolizumab 200 mg every 3 weeks for ≤ 24 months. The primary end point was objective response rate by RECIST, version 1.1.

Results: In the total population (N = 110), median time from enrollment to data cutoff was 35.9 (range, 29.5-40.3) months. Objective response rate was 36.4% with four (3.6%) complete responses and 36 (32.7%) partial responses; disease control rate was 58.2% (95% CI, 48.4 to 67.5). Most patients (68.2%) had a decrease in target lesions, including 30.9% with a reduction ≥ 60%. Median duration of response was 18.9 (range, 2.3-37.6+) months; 64.1% of responders had a response ≥ 12 months (Kaplan-Meier). Median progression-free survival was 7.1 months (95% CI, 5.6 to 11.0). Median overall survival was not reached; 12-month and 24-month overall survival rates were 88.2% and 70.8%, respectively. Durable responses were observed across all International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium categories. Grade 3-5 treatment-related adverse events were reported in 30.0% of patients, of which colitis and diarrhea were most frequent.

Conclusion: Single-agent pembrolizumab showed promising antitumor activity as a first-line treatment in patients with advanced ccRCC, with durable responses across International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium categories. Safety and tolerability profile of pembrolizumab monotherapy was comparable to what has been previously described in other tumor types.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.20.02363DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8078336PMC
March 2021

A phase 1b trial of the CXCR4 inhibitor mavorixafor and nivolumab in advanced renal cell carcinoma patients with no prior response to nivolumab monotherapy.

Invest New Drugs 2021 08 28;39(4):1019-1027. Epub 2021 Jan 28.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.

Background The CXCR4 chemokine receptor promotes tumor survival through mechanisms that include suppressing antitumor immune responses. Mavorixafor (X4P-001) is an oral, selective, allosteric CXCR4 inhibitor that decreases the recruitment of immunosuppressive cells into the tumor microenvironment and increases activated cytotoxic Tcell infiltration. Methods Patients with metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) unresponsive to nivolumab monotherapy received oral mavorixafor 400 mg daily plus 240 mg intravenous nivolumab every 2 weeks. Results Nine patients were enrolled, median age 65 years. At baseline 4 had progressive disease (PD) and 5 had stable disease (SD). One of 5 patients with SD at study entry on prior nivolumab monotherapy had a partial response (PR) on combination treatment; all 4 patients with PD at study entry had a best response of SD with the combination treatment (median duration: 6.7 months; range: 3.7-14.7). Four patients discontinued therapy due to treatment-related adverse events (AEs). Grade ≥ 3 drug-related AEs were elevated alanine and aspartate aminotransferase (2 patients each); and autoimmune hepatitis, chronic kidney disease, increased lipase, maculopapular rash, and mucosal inflammation (1 patient each). A robust increase in levels of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 9 CXCL9 on mavorixafor appeared to correlate with clinical benefit. Conclusions The CXCR4 inhibition mediated by mavorixafor, in combination with PD-1 blockade to enhance antitumor immune responses in patients unresponsive to checkpoint inhibitor monotherapy, is worthy of further study. Mavorixafor and nivolumab combination therapy in patients with advanced ccRCC demonstrated potential antitumor activity and a manageable safety profile.Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02923531. Date of registration: October 04, 2016.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10637-020-01058-2DOI Listing
August 2021

The State of Melanoma: Emergent Challenges and Opportunities.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 05 7;27(10):2678-2697. Epub 2021 Jan 7.

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Five years ago, the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) conducted an assessment of the challenges and opportunities facing the melanoma research community and patients with melanoma. Since then, remarkable progress has been made on both the basic and clinical research fronts. However, the incidence, recurrence, and death rates for melanoma remain unacceptably high and significant challenges remain. Hence, the MRF Scientific Advisory Council and Breakthrough Consortium, a group that includes clinicians and scientists, reconvened to facilitate intensive discussions on thematic areas essential to melanoma researchers and patients alike, prevention, detection, diagnosis, metastatic dormancy and progression, response and resistance to targeted and immune-based therapy, and the clinical consequences of COVID-19 for patients with melanoma and providers. These extensive discussions helped to crystalize our understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the broader melanoma community today. In this report, we discuss the progress made since the last MRF assessment, comment on what remains to be overcome, and offer recommendations for the best path forward.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-4092DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8127340PMC
May 2021

Axitinib plus pembrolizumab in patients with advanced renal-cell carcinoma: Long-term efficacy and safety from a phase Ib trial.

Eur J Cancer 2021 03 4;145:1-10. Epub 2021 Jan 4.

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

Background: Axitinib plus pembrolizumab showed superior overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS) and objective response rate (ORR) versus sunitinib in a randomised phase III trial in patients with advanced renal-cell carcinoma (RCC). We report long-term efficacy and safety of the axitinib/pembrolizumab from the phase I trial (NCT02133742), after 46-55 months from study initiation (data cut-off date, 23rd July 2019).

Methods: Fifty-two treatment-naïve patients with advanced RCC were treated with oral axitinib 5 mg twice daily and intravenous pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg every 3 weeks. PFS, duration of response (DoR) and OS were summarised using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: At a median follow-up of 42.7 months (95% confidence interval [CI]: 41.1-44.1), median OS was not reached; 38 (73.1%) patients were alive. The probability of being alive at 4 years was 66.8% (95% CI: 49.1-79.5). Median PFS in the overall population was 23.5 months (95% CI: 15.4-30.4). ORR was 73.1%; five patients had complete response. Median DoR was 22.1 months (95% CI: 15.1-34.5). Grade III/IV adverse events (AEs) were reported in 38 (73.1%) patients and 20 (38.5%) discontinued treatment because of AEs: 17 (32.7%) discontinued axitinib, 13 (25.0%) discontinued pembrolizumab, and 10 (19.2%) discontinued both drugs. Common AEs included diarrhoea (84.6%), fatigue (80.8%), hypertension (53.8%), cough (48.1%) and dysphonia (48.1%). There were no new AE terms reported and no treatment-related deaths.

Conclusions: In patients with advanced RCC with ~4 years of follow-up, combination axitinib/pembrolizumab continued to demonstrate clinical benefit, with no new safety signals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2020.12.009DOI Listing
March 2021

Strategies for improving the management of immune-related adverse events.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 12;8(2)

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

With the advent of immunotherapeutic agents, durable and dramatic responses have been observed in several hard-to-treat malignancies, outlining a roadmap to conquering cancer. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICPi) are a class of immunotherapeutic agents that attack the tumor cells by reinvigorating the suppressed immune system. However, the unbridled T-cell activity disrupts the immune homeostasis and induces a unique spectrum of side effects called immune-related adverse events (irAEs) in a significant proportion of patients. These irAEs are distinct from the side effects produced by traditional chemotherapeutic agents. Although majority of irAEs are manageable with corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive agents, life-threatening and fatal events have been reported. In the absence of predictive biomarkers to identify patients at risk for irAEs and standardized approach to detect, report, and treat irAEs, management of irAEs has been challenging to the patients, caregivers and the healthcare providers alike. With increasing use of ICPis for treatment of various cancers, the incidence of irAEs will undoubtedly increase. There is a compelling need to develop measures to effectively manage irAEs, both in the community settings and in cancer centers alike. To this end, in this paper, we propose several strategies, such as providing patient education, harmonizing irAE management guidelines, standardizing reporting of irAEs, optimizing the choice of immunosuppressive agents, conducting preclinical, clinical and translational studies to better understand irAEs, including high-risk patients, incorporating diagnostic tools to personalize irAE management using wireless technology and digital health, providing a platform to hear the missing patient's voice, and sharing evolving data to improve the management of irAEs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001754DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7735083PMC
December 2020

Cadherin 11 Promotes Immunosuppression and Extracellular Matrix Deposition to Support Growth of Pancreatic Tumors and Resistance to Gemcitabine in Mice.

Gastroenterology 2021 03 9;160(4):1359-1372.e13. Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Oncology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) are characterized by fibrosis and an abundance of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). We investigated strategies to disrupt interactions among CAFs, the immune system, and cancer cells, focusing on adhesion molecule CDH11, which has been associated with other fibrotic disorders and is expressed by activated fibroblasts.

Methods: We compared levels of CDH11 messenger RNA in human pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer tissues and cells with normal pancreas, and measured levels of CDH11 protein in human and mouse pancreatic lesions and normal tissues. We crossed p48-Cre;LSL-Kras;LSL-Trp53 (KPC) mice with CDH11-knockout mice and measured survival times of offspring. Pancreata were collected and analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, and (single-cell) RNA sequencing; RNA and proteins were identified by imaging mass cytometry. Some mice were given injections of PD1 antibody or gemcitabine and survival was monitored. Pancreatic cancer cells from KPC mice were subcutaneously injected into Cdh11 and Cdh11 mice and tumor growth was monitored. Pancreatic cancer cells (mT3) from KPC mice (C57BL/6), were subcutaneously injected into Cdh11 (C57BL/6J) mice and mice were given injections of antibody against CDH11, gemcitabine, or small molecule inhibitor of CDH11 (SD133) and tumor growth was monitored.

Results: Levels of CDH11 messenger RNA and protein were significantly higher in CAFs than in pancreatic cancer epithelial cells, human or mouse pancreatic cancer cell lines, or immune cells. KPC/Cdh11 and KPC/Cdh11 mice survived significantly longer than KPC/Cdh11 mice. Markers of stromal activation entirely surrounded pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias in KPC/Cdh11 mice and incompletely in KPC/Cdh11 and KPC/Cdh11 mice, whose lesions also contained fewer FOXP3 cells in the tumor center. Compared with pancreatic tumors in KPC/Cdh11 mice, tumors of KPC/Cdh11 mice had increased markers of antigen processing and presentation; more lymphocytes and associated cytokines; decreased extracellular matrix components; and reductions in markers and cytokines associated with immunosuppression. Administration of the PD1 antibody did not prolong survival of KPC mice with 0, 1, or 2 alleles of Cdh11. Gemcitabine extended survival of KPC/Cdh11 and KPC/Cdh11 mice only or reduced subcutaneous tumor growth in mT3 engrafted Cdh11 mice when given in combination with the CDH11 antibody. A small molecule inhibitor of CDH11 reduced growth of pre-established mT3 subcutaneous tumors only if T and B cells were present in mice.

Conclusions: Knockout or inhibition of CDH11, which is expressed by CAFs in the pancreatic tumor stroma, reduces growth of pancreatic tumors, increases their response to gemcitabine, and significantly extends survival of mice. CDH11 promotes immunosuppression and extracellular matrix deposition, and might be developed as a therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2020.11.044DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7956114PMC
March 2021

Pembrolizumab plus axitinib versus sunitinib monotherapy as first-line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma (KEYNOTE-426): extended follow-up from a randomised, open-label, phase 3 trial.

Lancet Oncol 2020 12 23;21(12):1563-1573. Epub 2020 Oct 23.

Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland, OH, USA; Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, TN, USA.

Background: The first interim analysis of the KEYNOTE-426 study showed superior efficacy of pembrolizumab plus axitinib over sunitinib monotherapy in treatment-naive, advanced renal cell carcinoma. The exploratory analysis with extended follow-up reported here aims to assess long-term efficacy and safety of pembrolizumab plus axitinib versus sunitinib monotherapy in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma.

Methods: In the ongoing, randomised, open-label, phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, adults (≥18 years old) with treatment-naive, advanced renal cell carcinoma with clear cell histology were enrolled in 129 sites (hospitals and cancer centres) across 16 countries. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive 200 mg pembrolizumab intravenously every 3 weeks for up to 35 cycles plus 5 mg axitinib orally twice daily or 50 mg sunitinib monotherapy orally once daily for 4 weeks per 6-week cycle. Randomisation was done using an interactive voice response system or integrated web response system, and was stratified by International Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma Database Consortium risk status and geographical region. Primary endpoints were overall survival and progression-free survival in the intention-to-treat population. Since the primary endpoints were met at the first interim analysis, updated data are reported with nominal p values. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02853331.

Findings: Between Oct 24, 2016, and Jan 24, 2018, 861 patients were randomly assigned to receive pembrolizumab plus axitinib (n=432) or sunitinib monotherapy (n=429). With a median follow-up of 30·6 months (IQR 27·2-34·2), continued clinical benefit was observed with pembrolizumab plus axitinib over sunitinib in terms of overall survival (median not reached with pembrolizumab and axitinib vs 35·7 months [95% CI 33·3-not reached] with sunitinib); hazard ratio [HR] 0·68 [95% CI 0·55-0·85], p=0·0003) and progression-free survival (median 15·4 months [12·7-18·9] vs 11·1 months [9·1-12·5]; 0·71 [0·60-0·84], p<0·0001). The most frequent (≥10% patients in either group) treatment-related grade 3 or worse adverse events were hypertension (95 [22%] of 429 patients in the pembrolizumab plus axitinib group vs 84 [20%] of 425 patients in the sunitinib group), alanine aminotransferase increase (54 [13%] vs 11 [3%]), and diarrhoea (46 [11%] vs 23 [5%]). No new treatment-related deaths were reported since the first interim analysis.

Interpretation: With extended study follow-up, results from KEYNOTE-426 show that pembrolizumab plus axitinib continues to have superior clinical outcomes over sunitinib. These results continue to support the first-line treatment with pembrolizumab plus axitinib as the standard of care of advanced renal cell carcinoma.

Funding: Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, a subsidiary of Merck & Co, Inc.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(20)30436-8DOI Listing
December 2020

Arterial Spin Labeled Perfusion MRI for the Evaluation of Response to Tyrosine Kinase Inhibition Therapy in Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Radiology 2021 02 1;298(2):332-340. Epub 2020 Dec 1.

From the Department of Radiology (L.L.T., M.F.S., D.C.A.) and Division of Hematology/Oncology (R.S.B., D.M.), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Mass; Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass (O.A.J., P.C.); Department of Radiology, Lowell General Hospital, Lowell, Mass (M.R.M.S.); Department of Radiology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY (P.M.R.); Division of Hematology/Oncology, Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, DC (M.B.A.); and Department of Radiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390 (I.P.).

Background Tumor perfusion may inform therapeutic response and resistance in metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) treated with antiangiogenic therapy. Purpose To determine if arterial spin labeled (ASL) MRI perfusion changes are associated with tumor response and disease progression in metastatic RCC treated with vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Materials and Methods In this prospective study (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00749320), metastatic RCC perfusion was measured with ASL MRI before and during sunitinib or pazopanib therapy between October 2008 and March 2014. Objective response rate (ORR) and progression-free survival (PFS) were calculated. Perfusion was compared between responders and nonresponders at baseline, at week 2, after cycle 2 (12 weeks), after cycle 4 (24 weeks), and at disease progression and compared with the ORR by using the Wilcoxon rank sum test and with PFS by using the log-rank test. Results Seventeen participants received sunitinib (mean age, 59 years ± 7.0 [standard deviation]; 11 men); 11 participants received pazopanib (mean age, 63 years ± 6.6; eight men). Responders had higher baseline tumor perfusion than nonresponders (mean, 404 mL/100 g/min ± 213 vs 199 mL/100 g/min ± 136; = .02). Perfusion decreased from baseline to week 2 (-53 mL/100 g/min ± 31; < .001), after cycle 2 (-65 mL/100 g/min ± 25; < .001), and after cycle 4 (-79 mL/100 g/min ± 15; = .008). Interval reduction in perfusion at those three time points was not associated with ORR ( = .63, .29, and .27, respectively) or PFS ( = .28, .27, and .32). Perfusion increased from cycle 4 to disease progression (51% ± 11; < .001). Conclusion Arterial spin labeled perfusion MRI may assist in identifying responders to vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors and may help detect early evidence of disease progression in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. © RSNA, 2020 See also the editorial by Goh and De Vita in this issue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1148/radiol.2020201763DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7850237PMC
February 2021

Expression of T-Cell Exhaustion Molecules and Human Endogenous Retroviruses as Predictive Biomarkers for Response to Nivolumab in Metastatic Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 03 20;27(5):1371-1380. Epub 2020 Nov 20.

Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Purpose: We sought to validate levels of CD8 tumor-infiltrating cells (TIC) expressing PD-1 but not TIM-3 and LAG-3 (IF biomarker; Pignon and colleagues, 2019) and to investigate human endogenous retroviruses (hERV) as predictors of response to anti-PD-1 in a randomized trial of nivolumab (nivo) versus everolimus (evero) in patients with metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (mccRCC; CheckMate-025).

Experimental Design: Tumor tissues (nivo: = 116, evero: = 107) were analyzed by multiparametric immunofluorescence (IF) and qRT-PCR. Genomic/transcriptomic analyses were performed in a subset of samples. Clinical endpoints included objective response rate (ORR), progression-free survival (PFS), overall survival (OS), and durable response rate (DRR, defined as complete response or partial response with a PFS ≥ 12 months).

Results: In the nivo (but not evero) arm, patients with high-IF biomarker density (24/116, 20.7%) had higher ORR (45.8% vs. 19.6%, = 0.01) and DRR (33.3% vs. 14.1%, = 0.03) and longer median PFS (9.6 vs. 3.7 months, = 0.03) than patients with low-IF biomarker. By RNA sequencing, several inflammatory pathways ( < 0.1) and immune-related gene signature scores ( < 0.05) were enriched in the high-IF biomarker group. When combined with the IF biomarker, tumor cell (TC) PD-L1 expression (≥1%) further separated clinical outcomes in the nivo arm. expression was associated with increased DRR and longer PFS in nivo-treated patients.

Conclusions: High levels of CD8 TIC expressing PD-1 but not TIM-3 and LAG-3 and expression predicted response to nivo (but not to evero) in patients with mccRCC. Combination of the IF biomarker with TC PD-L1 improved its predictive value, confirming our previous findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-3084DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8443005PMC
March 2021

Neoadjuvant Therapy for Melanoma: A U.S. Food and Drug Administration-Melanoma Research Alliance Public Workshop.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 01 13;27(2):394-401. Epub 2020 Nov 13.

Melanoma Research Alliance, Washington, DC.

Tremendous progress has been made in treating patients with metastatic melanoma over the past decade. In that timeframe, the FDA has approved 12 novel treatments for patients with advanced unresectable melanoma, comprising both kinase-targeted therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), and five treatments for adjuvant (postoperative) use in patients with high-risk resectable stage III melanoma. It is not known whether outcomes can be further improved by administering kinase inhibitors or ICI in the neoadjuvant (presurgical) setting in patients with high-risk resectable melanomas. Noting research community interest in exploring the neoadjuvant approach for treating melanoma and recognizing that early harmonization of methodologies may expedite the development of therapeutics in this space, the FDA and Melanoma Research Alliance convened a public workshop on November 6, 2019, in National Harbor, Maryland, to discuss key issues. The workshop consisted of 23 faculty and included more than 250 live participants. Topics discussed included opportunities for advancing novel endpoints for regulatory purposes as well as translational research, clinical trial design considerations, and strategies for optimizing patient selection while mitigating risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-3285DOI Listing
January 2021

Molecular Subsets in Renal Cancer Determine Outcome to Checkpoint and Angiogenesis Blockade.

Cancer Cell 2020 12 5;38(6):803-817.e4. Epub 2020 Nov 5.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA.

Integrated multi-omics evaluation of 823 tumors from advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) patients identifies molecular subsets associated with differential clinical outcomes to angiogenesis blockade alone or with a checkpoint inhibitor. Unsupervised transcriptomic analysis reveals seven molecular subsets with distinct angiogenesis, immune, cell-cycle, metabolism, and stromal programs. While sunitinib and atezolizumab + bevacizumab are effective in subsets with high angiogenesis, atezolizumab + bevacizumab improves clinical benefit in tumors with high T-effector and/or cell-cycle transcription. Somatic mutations in PBRM1 and KDM5C associate with high angiogenesis and AMPK/fatty acid oxidation gene expression, while CDKN2A/B and TP53 alterations associate with increased cell-cycle and anabolic metabolism. Sarcomatoid tumors exhibit lower prevalence of PBRM1 mutations and angiogenesis markers, frequent CDKN2A/B alterations, and increased PD-L1 expression. These findings can be applied to molecularly stratify patients, explain improved outcomes of sarcomatoid tumors to checkpoint blockade versus antiangiogenics alone, and develop personalized therapies in RCC and other indications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ccell.2020.10.011DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8436590PMC
December 2020

Evolving impact of long-term survival results on metastatic melanoma treatment.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 10;8(2)

Melanoma Cancer Immunotherapy and Innovative Therapy Unit, Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione Pascale, Naples, Italy

Melanoma treatment has been revolutionized over the past decade. Long-term results with immuno-oncology (I-O) agents and targeted therapies are providing evidence of durable survival for a substantial number of patients. These results have prompted consideration of how best to define long-term benefit and cure. Now more than ever, oncologists should be aware of the long-term outcomes demonstrated with these newer agents and their relevance to treatment decision-making. As the first tumor type for which I-O agents were approved, melanoma has served as a model for other diseases. Accordingly, discussions regarding the value and impact of long-term survival data in patients with melanoma may be relevant in the future to other tumor types. Current findings indicate that, depending on the treatment, over 50% of patients with melanoma may gain durable survival benefit. The best survival outcomes are generally observed in patients with favorable prognostic factors, particularly normal baseline lactate dehydrogenase and/or a low volume of disease. Survival curves from melanoma clinical studies show a plateau at 3 to 4 years, suggesting that patients who are alive at the 3-year landmark (especially in cases in which treatment had been stopped) will likely experience prolonged cancer remission. Quality-of-life and mixture-cure modeling data, as well as metrics such as treatment-free survival, are helping to define the value of this long-term survival. In this review, we describe the current treatment landscape for melanoma and discuss the long-term survival data with immunotherapies and targeted therapies, discussing how to best evaluate the value of long-term survival. We propose that some patients might be considered functionally cured if they have responded to treatment and remained treatment-free for at least 2 years without disease progression. Finally, we consider that, while there have been major advances in the treatment of melanoma in the past decade, there remains a need to improve outcomes for the patients with melanoma who do not experience durable survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-000948DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7549477PMC
October 2020

Final Overall Survival Results from a Phase 3 Study to Compare Tivozanib to Sorafenib as Third- or Fourth-line Therapy in Subjects with Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Eur Urol 2020 12 13;78(6):783-785. Epub 2020 Sep 13.

Hematology and Oncology, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, TN, USA. Electronic address:

Tivozanib is a potent and selective inhibitor of the VEGF receptor. In an open-label, randomized phase 3 trial, we compared tivozanib to sorafenib in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) who had received two or three prior therapies. We have previously reported that the study met its primary endpoint, demonstrating an improvement in progression-free survival with tivozanib versus sorafenib (5.6 mo vs 3.9 mo; hazard ratio [HR] 0.73, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.56-0.94; p=0.016). The current report reflects the final assessment of overall survival, showing no difference between treatment with tivozanib and sorafenib (HR 0.97, 95% CI 0.75-1.24). Given its activity and distinct tolerability profile, tivozanib represents a treatment option for patients with previously treated mRCC. PATIENT SUMMARY: We show that tivozanib, a targeted therapy, can delay tumor growth relative to an already approved targeted therapy (sorafenib) in patients with kidney cancer who have received two or three prior treatments. No difference in survival was observed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2020.08.007DOI Listing
December 2020

Molecular profiling of melanoma brain metastases compared to primary cutaneous melanoma and to extracranial metastases.

Oncotarget 2020 Aug 18;11(33):3118-3128. Epub 2020 Aug 18.

University of Tennessee Health Science Center, West Cancer Center, Germantown, TN, USA.

Background: Brain metastases are a significant cause of mortality and morbidity for patients with melanoma. We hypothesize that the development of brain metastases may be explained by molecular heterogeneity between primary cutaneous melanoma (PCM) or extracranial (ECM) and brain (MBM) melanoma metastases.

Materials And Methods: We compared next-generation sequencing, tumor mutational burden (TMB), and immunohistochemical staining for PD-L1 expression, among 132 MBM, 745 PCM, and 1190 ECM.

Results: The most common genetic alterations among MBM included: BRAF (52.4%), NRAS (26.6%), CDKN2A (23.3%), NF1 (18.9%), TP53 (18%), ARID2 (13.8%), SETD2 (11.9%), and PBRM1 (7.5%). Four genes were found with higher frequency among MBM compared to PCM or ECM: BRAF (52.4% v 40.4% v 40.9%), SETD2 (11.9% v 1.9% v 3.9%), PBRM1 (7.5% v 1.6% v 2.6%), and DICER1 (4.4% v 0.6% v 0.4%). MBM showed higher TMB ( = .04) and higher PD-L1 expression ( = .002), compared to PCM. PD-L1 expression was slightly higher among MBM compared to ECM ( = .042), but there was no difference between TMB ( = .21).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest a unique molecular profile for MBM, including higher rates of BRAF mutations, higher TMB and higher PD-L1 expression, and also implicate chromatin remodeling in the pathogenesis of MBM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27686DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7443369PMC
August 2020

Angiogenic and Immune-Related Biomarkers and Outcomes Following Axitinib/Pembrolizumab Treatment in Patients with Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma.

Clin Cancer Res 2020 11 18;26(21):5598-5608. Epub 2020 Aug 18.

Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, DC.

Purpose: Combined axitinib/pembrolizumab is approved for advanced renal cell carcinoma (aRCC). This exploratory analysis examined associations between angiogenic and immune-related biomarkers and outcomes following axitinib/pembrolizumab treatment.

Patients And Methods: Prospectively defined retrospective correlative exploratory analyses tested biospecimens from 52 treatment-naïve patients receiving axitinib and pembrolizumab (starting doses 5 mg twice daily and 2 mg/kg respectively, every 3 weeks). Tumor tissue, serum, and whole blood samples were collected at baseline, at cycle 2 day 1 (C2D1), and end of treatment (EOT) for blood-based samples. Clinical outcomes were objective response rate (ORR) and progression-free survival (PFS).

Results: Higher baseline tumor levels of CD8 showed a trend toward longer PFS (HR 0.4; = 0.091). Higher baseline serum levels of CXCL10 ( = 0.0197) and CEACAM1 ( = 0.085) showed a trend toward better ORR and longer PFS, respectively. Patients for whom IL6 was not detected at baseline had longer PFS versus patients for whom it was detected (HR 0.4; = 0.028). At C2D1 and/or EOT, mainly immune-related biomarkers showed any association with better outcomes. The genes ( = 0.084), ( = 0.064), and ( = 0.073) showed trending associations with ORR, and ( = 0.0145), ( = 0.0726), ( = 0.0666), (; = 0.0267), and ( = 0.0287) with PFS.

Conclusions: With combined axitinib/pembrolizumab treatment in patients with aRCC, mostly immune-related biomarkers are associated with better treatment outcomes. This exploratory analysis has identified some candidate biomarkers to consider in future prospective testing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-1408DOI Listing
November 2020

Current challenges for assessing the long-term clinical benefit of cancer immunotherapy: a multi-stakeholder perspective.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 07;8(2)

Bristol-Myers Squibb, New York, New York, USA.

Immuno-oncologics (IOs) differ from chemotherapies as they prime the patient's immune system to attack the tumor, rather than directly destroying cancer cells. The IO mechanism of action leads to durable responses and prolonged survival in some patients. However, providing robust evidence of the long-term benefits of IOs at health technology assessment (HTA) submission presents several challenges for manufacturers. The aim of this article was to identify, analyze, categorize, and further explore the key challenges that regulators, HTA agencies, and payers commonly encounter when assessing the long-term benefits of IO therapies. Insights were obtained from an international, multi-stakeholder steering committee (SC) and expert panels comprising of payers, economists, and clinicians. The selected individuals were tasked with developing a summary of challenges specific to IOs in demonstrating their long-term benefits at HTA submission. The SC and expert panels agreed that standard methods used to assess the long-term benefit of anticancer drugs may have limitations for IO therapies. Three key areas of challenges were identified: (1) lack of a disease model that fully captures the mechanism of action and subsequent patient responses; (2) estimation of longer-term outcomes, including a lack of agreement on ideal methods of survival analyses and extrapolation of survival curves; and (3) data limitations at the time of HTA submission, for which surrogate survival end points and real-world evidence could prove useful. A summary of the key challenges facing manufacturers when submitting evidence at HTA submission was developed, along with further recommendations for manufacturers in what evidence to produce. Despite almost a decade of use, there remain significant challenges around how best to demonstrate the long-term benefit of checkpoint inhibitor-based IOs to HTA agencies, clinicians, and payers. Manufacturers can potentially meet or mitigate these challenges with a focus on strengthening survival analysis methodology. Approaches to doing this include identifying reliable biomarkers, intermediate and surrogate end points, and the use of real-world data to inform and validate long-term survival projections. Wider education across all stakeholders-manufacturers, payers, and clinicians-in considering the long-term survival benefit with IOs is also important.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-000648DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359062PMC
July 2020

Atezolizumab plus Bevacizumab Versus Sunitinib for Patients with Untreated Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma and Sarcomatoid Features: A Prespecified Subgroup Analysis of the IMmotion151 Clinical Trial.

Eur Urol 2021 05 9;79(5):659-662. Epub 2020 Jul 9.

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, DC, USA.

Patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma with sarcomatoid features (sRCC) have a poor prognosis and have shown limited responsiveness to inhibition of the VEGF pathway. We conducted a prespecified analysis of the randomised, phase 3 IMmotion151 trial in previously untreated patients with advanced or metastatic RCC to assess the effectiveness of atezolizumab + bevacizumab versus sunitinib in a subgroup of patients with sarcomatoid features. Patients whose tumour had any component of sarcomatoid features were included and received atezolizumab + bevacizumab (n = 68) or sunitinib (n = 74). Baseline characteristics were similar between the groups. Median progression-free survival was significantly longer in the group receiving atezolizumab + bevacizumab overall (8.3 vs 5.3 mo; hazard ratio [HR] 0.52 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.34-0.79) and in the subset of patients with PD-L1-positive tumours (8.6 vs 5.6 mo; HR 0.45, 95% CI 0.26-0.77). More patients receiving atezolizumab + bevacizumab achieved an objective response (49% vs 14%), including complete responses (10% vs 3%), and reported greater symptom improvements versus sunitinib. Safety was consistent with the known profiles of each drug and with that reported in the overall safety-evaluable population of IMmotion151. This analysis supports enhanced activity of atezolizumab + bevacizumab in patients with sRCC. PATIENT SUMMARY: In this report, we looked at patients with a specific type of kidney cancer (tumours with sarcomatoid features) that has been hard to treat. A treatment with two drugs (atezolizumab and bevacizumab) appeared to help patients live longer without the disease getting worse than another drug (sunitinib) that is often used. Patients who took the two drugs also said they were better able to carry out their everyday activities than patients who took sunitinib. The combination of these two drugs may work better in patients with this type of advanced kidney cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2020.06.021DOI Listing
May 2021

Long-term Follow-up of Standard-Dose Pembrolizumab Plus Reduced-Dose Ipilimumab in Patients with Advanced Melanoma: KEYNOTE-029 Part 1B.

Clin Cancer Res 2020 10 30;26(19):5086-5091. Epub 2020 Jun 30.

Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Purpose: Combination therapy with reduced-dose programmed death 1 inhibitor plus standard-dose cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 inhibitor demonstrated efficacy, but substantial toxicity, in melanoma. We present long-term results of part 1B of KEYNOTE-029, which assessed safety and efficacy of standard-dose pembrolizumab plus reduced-dose ipilimumab in advanced melanoma.

Patients And Methods: Part 1B was an expansion cohort of the open-label, phase Ib portion of KEYNOTE-029. Eligible patients had advanced melanoma and no previous immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Patients received pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg (amended to 200 mg) every 3 weeks plus ipilimumab 1 mg/kg every 3 weeks (four cycles), then pembrolizumab alone for up to 2 years. Primary end point was safety; secondary end points included objective response rate (ORR), progression-free survival (PFS), duration of response (DOR), and overall survival (OS).

Results: A total of 153 patients received at least one dose of pembrolizumab plus ipilimumab. At a median follow-up of 36.8 months, 71.9% had received four doses of ipilimumab and 30.7% had completed 2 years of pembrolizumab; 26.1% completed both treatments. Treatment-related adverse events occurred in 96.1% (47.1% grade 3/4; no deaths), leading to discontinuation of one or both study drugs in 35.9%. ORR was 62.1% with 42 (27.5%) complete and 53 (34.6%) partial responses. Median DOR was not reached; 36-month ongoing response rate was 84.2%. Median PFS and OS were not reached; 36-month rates were 59.1% and 73.4%, respectively.

Conclusions: Standard-dose pembrolizumab plus reduced-dose ipilimumab demonstrated robust antitumor activity, durable response, and favorable long-term survival with manageable toxicity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-0177DOI Listing
October 2020
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