Publications by authors named "Paola Queirolo"

150 Publications

Crossover and rechallenge with pembrolizumab in recurrent patients from the EORTC 1325-MG/Keynote-054 phase III trial, pembrolizumab versus placebo after complete resection of high-risk stage III melanoma.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Oct 18;158:156-168. Epub 2021 Oct 18.

Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA.

Background: In the phase III double-blind European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer 1325/KEYNOTE-054 trial, pembrolizumab improved recurrence-free and distant metastasis-free survival in patients with stage III cutaneous melanoma with complete resection of lymph nodes. In the pembrolizumab group, the incidence of grade I-V and of grade III-V immune-related adverse events (irAEs) was 37% and 7%, respectively.

Methods: Patients were randomised to receive intravenous (i.v.) pembrolizumab 200 mg (N = 514) or placebo (N = 505) every 3 weeks, up to 1 year. On recurrence, patients could enter part 2 of the study: pembrolizumab 200 mg i.v. every 3 weeks up to 2 years, for crossover (those who received placebo) or rechallenge (those who had recurrence ≥6 months after completing 1-year adjuvant pembrolizumab therapy). For these patients, we present the safety profile and efficacy outcomes.

Results: At the clinical cut-off (16-Oct-2020), in the placebo group, 298 patients had a disease recurrence, in which 155 (52%) crossed over ('crossover'). In the pembrolizumab group, 297 patients completed the 1-year treatment period; 47 had a recurrence ≥6 months later, in which 20 (43%) entered the rechallenge part 2 ('rechallenge'). In the crossover group, the median progression-free survival (PFS) was 8.5 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 5.7-15.2) and the 3-year PFS rate was 32% (95% CI 25-40%). Among 80 patients with stage IV evaluable disease, 31 (39%) had an objective response: 14 (18%) patients with complete response (CR) and 17 (21%) patients with partial response. The 2-year PFS rate from response was 69% (95% CI 48-83%). In the rechallenge group, the median PFS was 4.1 months (95% CI 2.6-NE). Among 9 patients with stage IV evaluable disease, 1 had an objective response (CR). Among the 175 patients, 51 (29%) had a grade I-IV irAE and 11 (6%) had a grade III-IV irAE.

Conclusions: Pembrolizumab treatment after crossover yielded an overall 3-year PFS rate of 32% and a 39% ORR in evaluable patients, but the efficacy (11% ORR) was lower in those rechallenged.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.09.023DOI Listing
October 2021

Melanoma In Children And Adolescents: Analysis Of Susceptibility Genes In 123 Italian Patients.

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2021 Oct 18. Epub 2021 Oct 18.

Dermatology, Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.

Background: A polygenic inheritance involving high, medium and low penetrance genes has been suggested for melanoma susceptibility in adults, but genetic information is scarce for pediatric patients.

Objective: We aim to analyze the major high and intermediate melanoma risk genes, CDKN2A, CDK4, POT1, MITF and MC1R, in a large multicenter cohort of Italian children and adolescents, in order to explore the genetic context of pediatric melanoma and to reveal potential differences in heritability between children and adolescents METHODS: One-hundred-twenty-three patients (<21 years) from nine italian centers were analysed for the CDKN2A, CDK4, POT1, MITF, and MC1R melanoma predisposing genes. The rate of gene variants was compared between sporadic, familial and multiple melanoma patients and between children and adolescents, and their association with clinico-pathological characteristics was evaluated.

Results: Most patients carried MC1R variants (67%), while CDKN2A pathogenic variants were found in 9% of the cases, the MITF E318K in 2% of patients, and none carried CDK4 or the POT1 S270N pathogenic variant. Sporadic melanoma patients significantly differed from familial and multiple cases for the young age at diagnosis, unfrequent red hair color, low number of nevi, low frequency of CDKN2A pathogenic variants and of the MC1R R160W variant. Melanoma in children (≤ 12 years) had more frequently spitzoid histotype, were located on the head/neck and upper limbs and had higher Breslow thickness. The MC1R V92M variant was more common in children than in adolescents. CDKN2A common polymorphisms and MC1R variants were associated with a high number of nevi.

Conclusion: Our results confirm the scarce involvement of the major high-risk susceptibility genes in pediatric melanoma and suggest the implication of MC1R gene variants especially in the children population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jdv.17735DOI Listing
October 2021

Vitamin D and the Risk of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis on Behalf of the Italian Melanoma Intergroup.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Sep 26;13(19). Epub 2021 Sep 26.

Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology (IEO), IRCCS, 20141 Milan, Italy.

We aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the link between vitamin D and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). For this purpose, we conducted a systematic literature review (updated to 3 February 2021) and meta-analysis of the studies reporting on the association between vitamin D intake (from diet and supplements) and blood concentration, polymorphisms of the vitamin D receptor () and vitamin D binding protein () genes, and the risk of NMSC. Random effects meta-analysis models were fitted to merge study-specific risk estimates into summary relative risk (SRR) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI). Twenty-four studies altogether were included. There was a suggestive association between increasing serum/plasma vitamin D concentration and NMSC risk (SRR for highest vs. lowest concentration 1.67, 95%CI 0.61-4.56), although with large heterogeneity across studies (I = 91%). NMSC risk was associated with highest vitamin D intake in observational studies but not in clinical trials. Finally, there was no significant association between any polymorphism of the and genes and NMSC risk. In conclusion, no strong relationship between vitamin D metabolism and NMSC risk appears to exist according to our systematic review and meta-analysis, although some findings are worthy of further investigation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13194815DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8508211PMC
September 2021

Merkel Cell Carcinoma: An Immunotherapy Fairy-Tale?

Front Oncol 2021 23;11:739006. Epub 2021 Sep 23.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma, Sarcoma, and Rare Tumors, Istituto Europeo di Oncologia (IEO), European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, Milano, Italy.

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, highly aggressive, neuroendocrine cutaneous tumor. The incidence of MCC is growing worldwide, and the disease-related mortality is about three-fold higher than melanoma. Since a few years ago, very little has been known about this disease, and chemotherapy has been the standard of care. Nowadays, new discoveries about the pathophysiology of this neoplasm and the introduction of immunotherapy allowed to completely rewrite the history of these patients. In this review, we provide a summary of the most important changes in the management of Merkel cell carcinoma, with a focus on immunotherapy and a landscape of future treatment strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2021.739006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8495203PMC
September 2021

Real world data of cemiplimab in locally advanced and metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

Eur J Cancer 2021 Sep 15;157:250-258. Epub 2021 Sep 15.

University of Brescia, Department of Medical-Surgical Specialties, Radiological Sciences and Public Health, Medical Oncology, ASST-Spedali Civili, Brescia, Lombardia, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) has an overall favourable outcome, except for patients with an advanced stage disease. The programmed death protein-1 (PD-1) inhibitor cemiplimab has been approved for use in advanced cSCC. We report clinical outcomes from the named patient programme-compassionate use of cemiplimab for patients with advanced cSCC in Italy.

Methods: This is a retrospective, observational, multicentre study. We analysed medical records of patients with advanced cSCC treated with cemiplimab between May 2019 and February 2020 in 17 referral Italian centres. We assessed the safety profile according to the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, version 5.0 (CTCAE v 5.0), the clinical activity in terms of response rate, clinical benefit and duration of response and baseline clinical-pathologic characteristics associated with response.

Results: 131 patients were included, with a median age of 79 years. Of them, 9.2% had a concurrent chronic lymphoproliferative disease and 8.5% a concomitant autoimmune disease. Some 42.7% of the total patients had at least one treatment-related adverse events (AEs); out of above, 9.2% had grade 3-4 adverse events, and there were two fatal adverse events. The overall response rate (ORR) was 58%, and the disease control rate (DCR) was 71.7%. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (cSCCs) arising on the head and neck area (p = 0.007) and haemoglobin values in normal range (p = 0.034) were significantly associated with a better response, while cSCCs on the genitalia (p = 0.041), treatment with any systemic antibiotic within 1 month of cemiplimab initiation (p = 0.012), performance status ≥1 (p = 0.012), chronic corticosteroids therapy (p = 0.038), previous radiation therapy to lymph nodes (p = 0.052) and previous chemotherapy (p = 0.0020) were significantly associated with a worse response.

Conclusions: Our real-world study showed safety and effectiveness results comparable to those obtained in clinical trials. We identified some clinical and biochemical factors potentially associated with response to cemiplimab.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2021.08.018DOI Listing
September 2021

Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Front Oncol 2021 26;11:733917. Epub 2021 Aug 26.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma, Sarcoma, and Rare Tumors, European Institute of Oncology (IEO), European Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), Milano, Italy.

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) accounts for approximately 20% of all keratinocytic tumors. In most cases, the diagnosis and treatments are made on small, low-risk lesions. However, in about 5% of cases, CSCC may present as either locally advanced or metastatic (i.e. with locoregional lymph nodes metastases or distant localizations). Prior to the introduction of immunotherapy in clinical practice, the standard treatment of advanced CSCC was not clearly defined, and up to 60% of patients received no systemic therapy. Thanks to a strong pre-clinical rationale, clinical trials led to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and EMA (European Medicines Agency) registration of cemiplimab, a PD-1 inhibitor that achieved encouraging results in terms of objective response, overall survival, and quality of life. Subsequently, the anti-PD-1 pembrolizumab received the approval for the treatment of advanced CSCC by the FDA only. In this review, we will focus on the definition of advanced CSCC and on the current and future therapeutic options, with a particular regard for immunotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2021.733917DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8427439PMC
August 2021

Gender-Dependent Specificities in Cutaneous Melanoma Predisposition, Risk Factors, Somatic Mutations, Prognostic and Predictive Factors: A Systematic Review.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021 07 27;18(15). Epub 2021 Jul 27.

Department of Experimental Oncology, IEO-European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, 20139 Milan, Italy.

Background And Aim: Over the last decades, the incidence of melanoma has been steadily growing, with 4.2% of the population worldwide affected by cutaneous melanoma (CM) in 2020 and with a higher incidence and mortality in men than in women. We investigated both the risk factors for CM development and the prognostic and predictive factors for survival, stratifying for both sex and gender.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of studies indexed in PUB-MED, EMBASE, and Scopus until 4 February 2021. We included reviews, meta-analyses, and pooled analyses investigating differences between women and men in CM risk factors and in prognostic and predictive factors for CM survival.

Data Synthesis: Twenty-four studies were included, and relevant data extracted. Of these, 13 studies concerned potential risk factors, six concerned predictive factors, and five addressed prognostic factors of melanoma.

Discussion: The systematic review revealed no significant differences in genetic predisposition to CM between males and females, while there appear to be several gender disparities regarding CM risk factors, partly attributable to different lifestyles and behavioral habits between men and women. There is currently no clear evidence of whether the mutational landscapes of CM differ by sex/gender. Prognosis is justified by a complex combination of phenotypes and immune functions, while reported differences between genders in predicting the effectiveness of new treatments are inconsistent. Overall, the results emerging from the literature reveal the importance of considering the sex/gender variable in all studies and pave the way for including it towards precision medicine.

Conclusions: Men and women differ genetically, biologically, and by social construct. Our systematic review shows that, although fundamental, the variable sex/gender is not among the ones collected and analyzed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157945DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8345480PMC
July 2021

Real Life Clinical Management and Survival in Advanced Cutaneous Melanoma: The Italian Clinical National Melanoma Registry Experience.

Front Oncol 2021 8;11:672797. Epub 2021 Jul 8.

Centro di Riferimento Oncologico di Aviano (CRO) IRCCS, Aviano (PN), Italy.

Background: Cutaneous melanoma (CM) is one of the most aggressive types of skin cancer. Currently, innovative approaches such as target therapies and immunotherapies have been introduced in clinical practice. Data of clinical trials and real life studies that evaluate the outcomes of these therapeutic associations are necessary to establish their clinical utility. The aim of this study is to investigate the types of oncological treatments employed in the real-life clinical management of patients with advanced CM in several Italian centers, which are part of the Clinical National Melanoma Registry (CNMR).

Methods: Melanoma-specific survival and overall survival were calculated. Multivariate Cox regression models were used to estimate the hazard ratios adjusting for confounders and other prognostic factors.

Results: The median follow-up time was 36 months (range 1.2-185.1). 787 CM were included in the analysis with completed information about therapies. All types of immunotherapy showed a significant improved survival compared with all other therapies (p=0.001). 75% was the highest reduction of death reached by anti-PD-1 (HR=0.25), globally immunotherapy was significantly associated with improved survival, either for anti-CTLA4 monotherapy or combined with anti-PD-1 (HR=0.47 and 0.26, respectively) and BRAFI+MEKI (HR=0.62).

Conclusions: The nivolumab/pembrolizumab in combination of ipilimumab and the addition of ant-MEK to the BRAFi can be considered the best therapies to improve survival in a real-world-population. The CNMR can complement clinical registries with the intent of improving cancer management and standardizing cancer treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2021.672797DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8298066PMC
July 2021

Vitamin D Supplementation and Disease-Free Survival in Stage II Melanoma: A Randomized Placebo Controlled Trial.

Nutrients 2021 Jun 4;13(6). Epub 2021 Jun 4.

Department of Experimental Oncology, IEO, European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, 20141 Milan, Italy.

Patients with newly resected stage II melanoma ( = 104) were randomized to receive adjuvant vitamin D3 (100,000 IU every 50 days) or placebo for 3 years to investigate vitamin D3 protective effects on developing a recurrent disease. Median age at diagnosis was 50 years, and 43% of the patients were female. Median serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25OHD) level at baseline was 18 ng/mL, interquartile range (IQ) was 13-24 ng/mL, and 80% of the patients had insufficient vitamin D levels. We observed pronounced increases in 25OHD levels after 4 months in the active arm (median 32.9 ng/mL; IQ range 25.9-38.4) against placebo (median 19.05 ng/mL; IQ range 13.0-25.9), constantly rising during treatment. Remarkably, patients with low Breslow score (<3 mm) had a double increase in 25OHD levels from baseline, whereas patients with Breslow score ≥3 mm had a significantly lower increase over time. After 12 months, subjects with low 25OHD levels and Breslow score ≥3 mm had shorter disease-free survival ( = 0.02) compared to those with Breslow score <3 mm and/or high levels of 25OHD. Adjusting for age and treatment arm, the hazard ratio for relapse was 4.81 (95% CI: 1.44-16.09, = 0.011). Despite the evidence of a role of 25OHD in melanoma prognosis, larger trials with vitamin D supplementation involving subjects with melanoma are needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu13061931DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8226808PMC
June 2021

PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors during late stages of life: an ad-hoc analysis from a large multicenter cohort.

J Transl Med 2021 06 24;19(1):270. Epub 2021 Jun 24.

Division of Medical Oncology, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy.

Background: The favourable safety profile and the increasing confidence with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) might have boosted their prescription in frail patients with short life expectancies, who usually are not treated with standard chemotherapy.

Methods: The present analysis aims to describe clinicians' attitudes towards ICIs administration during late stages of life within a multicenter cohort of advanced cancer patients treated with single agent PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors in Italy.

Results: Overall, 1149 patients with advanced cancer who received single agent PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors were screened. The final study population consisted of 567 deceased patients. 166 patients (29.3%) had received ICIs within 30 days of death; among them there was a significantly higher proportion of patients with ECOG-PS ≥ 2 (28.3% vs 11.5%, p < 0.0001) and with a higher burden of disease (69.3% vs 59.4%, p = 0.0266). In total, 35 patients (6.2%) started ICIs within 30 days of death; among them there was a higher proportion of patients with ECOG-PS ≥ 2 (45.7% vs 14.5%, p < 0.0001) and with a higher burden of disease (82.9% vs 60.9%, p = 0.0266). Primary tumors were significantly different across subgroups (p = 0.0172), with a higher prevalence of NSCLC patients (80% vs 60.9%) among those who started ICIs within 30 days of death. Lastly, 123 patients (21.7%) started ICIs within 3 months of death. Similarly, within this subgroup there was a higher proportion of patients with ECOG-PS ≥ 2 (29.3% vs 12.8%, p < 0.0001), with a higher burden of disease (74.0% vs 59.0%, p = 0.0025) and with NSCLC (74.0% vs 58.8%, p = 0.0236).

Conclusion: Our results confirmed a trend toward an increasing ICIs prescription in frail patients, during the late stages of life. Caution should be exercised when evaluating an ICI treatment for patients with a poor PS and a high burden of disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-021-02937-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8223272PMC
June 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

Efficacy of BRAF and MEK Inhibition in Patients with BRAF-Mutant Advanced Melanoma and Germline CDKN2A Pathogenic Variants.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 May 18;13(10). Epub 2021 May 18.

IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genetics of Rare Cancers, 16132 Genoa, Italy.

Inherited pathogenic variants (PVs) in the CDKN2A tumor suppressor gene are among the strongest risk factors for cutaneous melanoma. Dysregulation of the p16/RB1 pathway may intrinsically limit the activity of MAPK-directed therapy due to the interplay between the two pathways. In our study, we assessed, for the first time, whether patients with germline CDKN2A PVs achieve suboptimal results with BRAF inhibitors (BRAFi)+/-MEK inhibitors (MEKi). We compared the response rate of nineteen CDKN2A PVs carriers who received first-line treatment with BRAFi+/-MEKi with an expected rate derived from phase III trials and "real-world" studies. We observed partial response in 16/19 patients (84%), and no complete responses. The overall response rate was higher than that expected from phase III trials (66%), although not statistically significant (-value = 0.143; 95% CI = 0.60-0.97); the difference was statistically significant (-value = 0.019; 95% CI = 0.62-0.97) in the comparison with real-world studies (57%). The clinical activity of BRAFi+/-MEKi in patients with germline CDKN2A PV was not inferior to that of clinical trials and real-world studies, which is of primary importance for clinical management and genetic counseling of this subgroup of patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13102440DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8157545PMC
May 2021

Sex-Based Dimorphism of Anticancer Immune Response and Molecular Mechanisms of Immune Evasion.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 Aug 20;27(15):4311-4324. Epub 2021 May 20.

Department of Oncology, Weill Cornel Medicine, New York, New York.

Purpose: We previously demonstrated that sex influences response to immune checkpoint inhibitors. In this article, we investigate sex-based differences in the molecular mechanisms of anticancer immune response and immune evasion in patients with NSCLC.

Experimental Design: We analyzed (i) transcriptome data of 2,575 early-stage NSCLCs from seven different datasets; (ii) 327 tumor samples extensively characterized at the molecular level from the TRACERx lung study; (iii) two independent cohorts of 329 and 391 patients, respectively, with advanced NSCLC treated with anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 drugs.

Results: As compared with men, the tumor microenvironment (TME) of women was significantly enriched for a number of innate and adaptive immune cell types, including specific T-cell subpopulations. NSCLCs of men and women exploited different mechanisms of immune evasion. The TME of females was characterized by significantly greater T-cell dysfunction status, higher expression of inhibitory immune checkpoint molecules, and higher abundance of immune-suppressive cells, including cancer-associated fibroblasts, MDSCs, and regulatory T cells. In contrast, the TME of males was significantly enriched for a T-cell-excluded phenotype. We reported data supporting impaired neoantigens presentation to immune system in tumors of men, as molecular mechanism explaining the findings observed. Finally, in line with our results, we showed significant sex-based differences in the association between TMB and outcome of patients with advanced NSCLC treated with anti-PD-1/PD-L1 drugs.

Conclusions: We demonstrated meaningful sex-based differences of anticancer immune response and immune evasion mechanisms, that may be exploited to improve immunotherapy efficacy for both women and men.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-0136DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7611463PMC
August 2021

Treatment beyond progression with anti-PD-1/PD-L1 based regimens in advanced solid tumors: a systematic review.

BMC Cancer 2021 Apr 17;21(1):425. Epub 2021 Apr 17.

Melanoma, Sarcoma & Rare Tumors Division, European Institute of Oncology (IEO), Milan, Italy.

Background: Treatment beyond progression with immunotherapy may be appropriate in selected patients based on the potential for late responses. The aim of this systematic review was to explore the impact of treatment beyond progression in patients receiving an anti-PD-1/PD-L1 based regimen for an advanced solid tumor.

Methods: A systematic literature search was performed to identify prospective clinical trials reporting data on overall response rate by immune-related criteria and/or the number of patients treated beyond conventional criteria-defined PD and/or the number of patients achieving a clinical benefit after an initial PD with regimens including an anti-PD-1/PD-L1 agent which received the FDA approval for the treatment of an advanced solid tumor.

Results: 254 (4.6%) responses after an initial RECIST-defined progressive disease were observed among 5588 patients, based on 35 trials included in our analysis reporting this information. The overall rate of patients receiving treatment beyond progressive disease was 30.2%, based on data on 5334 patients enrolled in 36 trials, and the rate of patients who achieved an unconventional response among those treated beyond progressive disease was 19.7% (based on 25 trials for a total of 853 patients).

Conclusion: The results of our systematic review support the clinical relevance of unconventional responses to anti-PD-1/PD-L1-based regimens; however, most publications provided only partial information regarding immune-related clinical activity, or did not provide any information at all, highlighting the need of a more comprehensive report of such data in trials investigating immunotherapy for the treatment of patients with advanced tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-021-08165-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8052683PMC
April 2021

Avelumab treatment in Italian patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma: experience from an expanded access program.

J Transl Med 2021 02 15;19(1):70. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione G. Pascale, Naples, Italy.

Background: The incidence of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare form of skin cancer with a poor prognosis, has increased in Italy in recent decades. Avelumab, an anti-programmed death ligand 1 monoclonal antibody, is approved for the treatment of metastatic MCC (mMCC) based on the results of the phase 2 JAVELIN Merkel 200 trial. The global avelumab expanded access program (EAP) was designed to provide compassionate use of avelumab prior to approval for patients with mMCC who had limited treatment options. We report findings from a subgroup of Italian patients enrolled in the avelumab EAP.

Methods: Eligible patients had mMCC and progressive disease following ≥ 1 prior line of chemotherapy or were ineligible for chemotherapy or clinical trial participation. Patients received avelumab 10 mg/kg intravenously every 2 weeks. Treating physicians were provided with an initial 3-month supply of avelumab; resupply was permitted if the patient achieved a complete response, partial response, stable disease, or other clinical benefit per physician assessment. Safety and efficacy data for the EAP were reported at the treating physician's discretion.

Results: Between April 1, 2016, and September 14, 2018, 109 requests for avelumab were received from Italy, and 102 were approved. All but 1 of the approved patients had received ≥ 1 prior line of therapy. At data cutoff (March 22, 2019), 95 patients had been supplied with avelumab and response data were available for 55 patients. The objective response rate in response-evaluable patients was 29.1%, including 6 patients (10.9%) who achieved a complete response and 10 patients (18.2%) who achieved a partial response; in the total population supplied with avelumab (n = 95), the proportion who had an objective response was 16.8%. The median duration of treatment in responding patients was 9.7 months (range, 3.5-41.7 months). The most frequently reported treatment-related adverse events were infusion-related reaction (single preferred term; n = 3 [3.2%]) and pyrexia (n = 2 [2.1%]).

Conclusions: Results from Italian patients enrolled in the avelumab EAP are consistent with the findings of the JAVELIN Merkel 200 trial and confirm the efficacy and safety of avelumab treatment in this population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-021-02730-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7885451PMC
February 2021

No Impact of NRAS Mutation on Features of Primary and Metastatic Melanoma or on Outcomes of Checkpoint Inhibitor Immunotherapy: An Italian Melanoma Intergroup (IMI) Study.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Jan 26;13(3). Epub 2021 Jan 26.

Rare Tumors and Melanoma Unit, IRCCS Istituto Tumori "Giovanni Paolo II", 70124 Bari, Italy.

Aims: It is debated whether the NRAS-mutant melanoma is more aggressive than NRAS wildtype. It is equally controversial whether NRAS-mutant metastatic melanoma (MM) is more responsive to checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy (CII). 331 patients treated with CII as first-line were retrospectively recruited: 162 NRAS-mutant/BRAF wild-type (mut/wt) and 169 wt/wt. We compared the two cohorts regarding the characteristics of primary and metastatic disease, disease-free interval (DFI) and outcome to CII. No substantial differences were observed between the two groups at melanoma onset, except for a more frequent ulceration in the wt/wt group ( = 0.03). Also, the DFI was very similar in the two cohorts. In advanced disease, we only found lung and brain progression more frequent in the wt/wt group. Regarding the outcomes to CII, no significant differences were reported in overall response rate (ORR), disease control rate (DCR), progression free survival (PFS) or overall survival (OS) (42% versus 37%, 60% versus 59%, 12 (95% CI, 7-18) versus 9 months (95% CI, 6-16) and 32 (95% CI, 23-49) versus 27 months (95% CI, 16-35), respectively). Irrespectively of mutational status, a longer OS was significantly associated with normal LDH, <3 metastatic sites, lower white blood cell and platelet count, lower neutrophil-to-lymphocyte (N/L) ratio. Our data do not show increased aggressiveness and higher responsiveness to CII in NRAS-mutant MM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13030475DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7865301PMC
January 2021

Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibition.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 01;9(1)

European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.

Background: Patients with cancer who are infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are more likely to develop severe illness and die compared with those without cancer. The impact of immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) on the severity of COVID-19 illness is unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate whether ICI confers an additional risk for severe COVID-19 in patients with cancer.

Methods: We analyzed data from 110 patients with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 while on treatment with ICI without chemotherapy in 19 hospitals in North America, Europe and Australia. The primary objective was to describe the clinical course and to identify factors associated with hospital and intensive care (ICU) admission and mortality.

Findings: Thirty-five (32%) patients were admitted to hospital and 18 (16%) died. All patients who died had advanced cancer, and only four were admitted to ICU. COVID-19 was the primary cause of death in 8 (7%) patients. Factors independently associated with an increased risk for hospital admission were ECOG ≥2 (OR 39.25, 95% CI 4.17 to 369.2, p=0.0013), treatment with combination ICI (OR 5.68, 95% CI 1.58 to 20.36, p=0.0273) and presence of COVID-19 symptoms (OR 5.30, 95% CI 1.57 to 17.89, p=0.0073). Seventy-six (73%) patients interrupted ICI due to SARS-CoV-2 infection, 43 (57%) of whom had resumed at data cut-off.

Interpretation: COVID-19-related mortality in the ICI-treated population does not appear to be higher than previously published mortality rates for patients with cancer. Inpatient mortality of patients with cancer treated with ICI was high in comparison with previously reported rates for hospitalized patients with cancer and was due to COVID-19 in almost half of the cases. We identified factors associated with adverse outcomes in ICI-treated patients with COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001931DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7817383PMC
January 2021

Germline MC1R variants and frequency of somatic BRAF, NRAS, and TERT mutations in melanoma: Literature review and meta-analysis.

Mol Carcinog 2021 03 14;60(3):167-171. Epub 2021 Jan 14.

Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Milan, Italy.

Germline variants of the melanocortin-1-receptor (MC1R) gene are the most common genetic trait predisposing to cutaneous melanoma (CM). Here, we performed a literature review and meta-analysis of the association between MC1R gene variants and the frequency of somatic mutations of the BRAF, NRAS, and TERT genes in CM patients. We included studies published until January 2020 in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid Medline, and two grey literature databases. Random effect models were used to pool study-specific estimates into summary odds ratio (SOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Subgroup and sensitivity analyses were conducted to identify potential sources of heterogeneity and assess the robustness of pooled estimates. Twelve studies published between 2006 and 2018 (encompassing 3566 CM, mostly on nonacral sites) were included. MC1R gene variants were not significantly associated with the frequency of somatic mutations of the BRAF and NRAS genes. Only three studies focused on somatic mutations of the TERT gene promoter, all of which reported moderate-to-strong positive associations with MC1R germline variants. MC1R gene variants appear to make only moderate changes, if any, to the risk of BRAF- or NRAS-mutant CM. The association with TERT promoter mutations is suggestive, yet it warrants confirmation as it is based on a still limited number of studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mc.23280DOI Listing
March 2021

The surgical treatment of non-metastatic melanoma in a Clinical National Melanoma Registry Study Group (CNMR): a retrospective cohort quality improvement study to reduce the morbidity rates.

BMC Cancer 2021 Jan 5;21(1). Epub 2021 Jan 5.

Surgical Oncology Unit, Veneto Institute of Oncology IOV - IRCCS, Padova, Italy.

Background: Reproducible, high-quality surgery is a key point in the management of cancer patients. Quality indicators for surgical treatment of melanoma has been presented with benchmarks but data on morbidity are still limited. This study presents the quality indicators on morbidity after surgical treatment for non-metastatic skin melanoma in an Italian registry.

Methods: Data were extracted from the Central National Melanoma Registry (CNMR) promoted by the Italian Melanoma Intergroup (IMI). All surgical procedures (WE, SNLB or LFND) for non-metastatic skin melanoma between January 2011 and February 2017 were evaluated for inclusion in the study. Only centers with adequate completeness of information (> 80%) were included in the study. Short-term complications (wound infection, dehiscence, skin graft failure and seroma) were investigated.

Results: Wound infection rate was 1.1% (0.4 to 2.7%) in WE, 1.3% (0.7 to 2.5%) in SLNB and 4.1% (2.1 to 8.0%) in LFND. Wound dehiscence rate was 2.0% (0.8 to 5.1%) in WE, 0.9% (0.2 to 3.0%) in SLNB and 2.8% (0.9 to 8.6%) in LFND. Seroma rate was 4.2% (1.5 to 11.1%) in SLNB and 15.1% (4.6 to 39.9%) in LFND. Unreliable information was found on skin graft failure.

Conclusions: Our findings contribute to available literature in setting up the recommended standards for melanoma centers, thus improving the quality of surgery offered to patients. A consensus on the core issues around surgical morbidity is needed to provide practical guidance on morbidity prevention and management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-020-07705-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7786513PMC
January 2021

KEYNOTE-022 part 3: a randomized, double-blind, phase 2 study of pembrolizumab, dabrafenib, and trametinib in -mutant melanoma.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 12;8(2)

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

Background: In the KEYNOTE-022 study, pembrolizumab with dabrafenib and trametinib (triplet) improved progression-free survival (PFS) versus placebo with dabrafenib and trametinib (doublet) without reaching statistical significance. Mature results on PFS, duration of response (DOR), and overall survival (OS) are reported.

Methods: The double-blind, phase 2 part of KEYNOTE-022 enrolled patients with previously untreated -mutated advanced melanoma from 22 sites in seven countries. Patients were randomly assigned 1:1 to intravenous pembrolizumab (200 mg every 3 weeks) or placebo plus dabrafenib (150 mg orally two times per day) and trametinib (2 mg orally one time a day). Primary endpoint was PFS. Secondary endpoints were objective response rate, DOR, and OS. Efficacy was assessed in the intention-to-treat population, and safety was assessed in all patients who received at least one dose of study drug. This analysis was not specified in the protocol.

Results: Between November 30, 2015 and April 24, 2017, 120 patients were randomly assigned to triplet (n=60) or doublet (n=60) therapy. With 36.6 months of follow-up, median PFS was 16.9 months (95% CI 11.3 to 27.9) with triplet and 10.7 months (95% CI 7.2 to 16.8) with doublet (HR 0.53; 95% CI 0.34 to 0.83). With triplet and doublet, respectively, PFS at 24 months was 41.0% (95% CI 27.4% to 54.2%) and 16.3% (95% CI 8.1% to 27.1%); median DOR was 25.1 months (95% CI 14.1 to not reached) and 12.1 months (95% CI 6.0 to 15.7), respectively. Median OS was not reached with triplet and was 26.3 months with doublet (HR 0.64; 95% CI 0.38 to 1.06). With triplet and doublet, respectively, OS at 24 months was 63.0% (95% CI 49.4% to 73.9%) and 51.7% (95% CI 38.4% to 63.4%). Grade 3-5 treatment-related adverse events (TRAEs) occurred in 35 patients (58%, including one death) receiving triplet and 15 patients (25%) receiving doublet.

Conclusion: In -mutant advanced melanoma, pembrolizumab plus dabrafenib and trametinib substantially improved PFS, DOR, and OS with a higher incidence of TRAEs. Interpretation of these results is limited by the post hoc nature of the analysis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001806DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7768966PMC
December 2020

EGFR-TKI Plus Anti-Angiogenic Drugs in EGFR-Mutated Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.

JNCI Cancer Spectr 2020 Dec 29;4(6):pkaa064. Epub 2020 Jul 29.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma, Sarcoma, and Rare Tumors, Istituto Europeo di Oncologia, IRCCS, Milan, Italy.

Background: Results of several randomized clinical trials (RCTs) testing the combination of an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) plus an anti-angiogenic drug in advanced EGFR-mutated non-small cell lung cancer were reported.

Methods: We first report a systematic review and meta-analysis of all RCTs to estimate effectiveness and toxicity of this new therapeutic approach compared with first-generation EGFR-TKI monotherapy. Subsequently, we present a network meta-analysis comparing the combination of an EGFR-TKI plus an anti-angiogenic drug with 2 new treatment options: combination of an EGFR-TKI plus chemotherapy or new EGFR-TKIs of second or third generation as monotherapy.

Results: Five RCTs were included in the first meta-analysis. The progression-free survival (PFS) was statistically significantly larger in patients treated with an EGFR-TKI plus an anti-angiogenic drug compared with EGFR-TKI monotherapy: the pooled PFS-hazard ratio (HR) was 0.59 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.51 to 0.69). The pooled median-PFS was 17.8 months (95% CI = 16.5 to 19.3 months) for the combination vs 11.7 months (95% CI = 11.1 to 12.7 months) for EGFR-TKI as monotherapy. No statistically significant differences between the 2 treatment arms were observed in overall survival or objective response rate. The rate of grade equal or higher than 3 adverse events was statistically significantly higher in patients treated with EGFR-TKI plus an anti-angiogenic drug: the pooled-relative risk was 1.72 (95% CI = 1.43 to 2.06). Ten RCTs were included in the network meta-analysis. All 3 experimental treatments were associated with a statistically significant improvement in PFS compared with first-generation EGFR-TKIs. When compared to each other, none of the 3 experimental treatments were statistically significantly associated with larger PFS or lower rate of grade 3 or higher adverse events.

Conclusion: Patients with EGFR-mutated non small-cell lung cancer derived clinically meaningful larger PFS benefit from the addition of an anti-angiogenic drug to a first-generation EGFR-TKI at the cost of an increase of toxicities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jncics/pkaa064DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7737478PMC
December 2020

Case Report: Immune-Related Toxicity During Adjuvant Treatment With BRAF Plus MEK Inhibitors in a Melanoma Patient.

Front Immunol 2020 17;11:579523. Epub 2020 Nov 17.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma, Sarcoma, and Rare Tumors, IEO, European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, Milan, Italy.

Adjuvant treatment of operated melanoma has deeply changed in the last few years with the introduction of immune-checkpoint inhibitors and BRAF/MEK inhibitors. Sarcoidosis is a systemic inflammatory disease causing non-caseous granulomatous reactions. Sarcoid-like granulomatous reactions have been reported in patients with advanced melanoma, mostly related to immunotherapy with immune-checkpoint inhibitors. We report a case of a 38-year-old woman with stage III operated melanoma treated with adjuvant BRAF plus MEK inhibitors, who developed sarcoidosis-like syndrome with systemic involvement, resolved after discontinuation of treatment. The occurrence of immune-related toxicity with the use of MAPK inhibitors supports the hypothesis that this class of drugs may also have an immunological effect, and that the long-term efficacy of adjuvant MAPK inhibitors may be due to their immunological function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.579523DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7704616PMC
June 2021

Pathological and clinical features of enteric adenocarcinoma of the thymus. A pooled analysis of cases from a reference center and systematic review of the literature.

Cancer Treat Rev 2021 Jan 3;92:102133. Epub 2020 Dec 3.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma & Sarcoma, IEO, European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, Milan, Italy.

Background: Primary enteric adenocarcinoma of the thymus (EAT) is a recently proposed rare subtype of thymic carcinoma. Unlike thymic carcinomas with squamous histology, for which clinical guidelines are available, little knowledge is available regarding the clinical and pathological features of EAT, and there is no consensus on the best treatment algorithm for such tumors.

Methods: We performed a systematic review of the literature, searching for all cases of EAT reported. We also retrospectively reviewed all cases of EAT treated at the European Institute of Oncology (IEO) between January 2000 and January 2020. Individual patient data were extracted and analyzed in order to delineate clinical and pathological features, as well as patients' prognosis and treatments outcome, evaluated in terms of Disease free Survival (DFS), Progression free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS).

Results: Thirty-three cases (29 reported in literature and 4 new cases treated at IEO) of thymic adenocarcinoma deploying enteric differentiation as defined by WHO-criteria were analyzed. All tumors showed positive immunoreactivity for cytokeratin (CK) 20 and/or caudal type homeobox 2 (CDX2). Data on molecular profiling by next-generation sequencing were available in only 3 cases, and did not show actionable findings. At diagnosis, 11 pts had an early-stage (Masaoka I-II) and 22 a locally advanced (10 pts) or metastatic (12 pts) disease. Median-DFS of patients with localized disease was 12 months (95% CI, 7-19). Patients who received systemic chemotherapy were mostly treated with regimens commonly used for thymic epithelial tumors, with a discouraging PFS of 3-5 months for patients with stage IV disease. Median OS of the whole population was 34 months (95% CI, 24-NA:. mOS was not reached for patients with stage I-II disease versus 34 months in stage III-IV (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Available evidence suggests that EAT represents a distinct entity in the context of thymic epithelial tumors, characterized by aggressive clinical behavior, poor responsiveness to chemotherapy and dismal patients prognosis. More research is needed to better define optimal management strategies for patients with such rare disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctrv.2020.102133DOI Listing
January 2021

Circulating tumour DNA and melanoma survival: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis.

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol 2021 Jan 27;157:103187. Epub 2020 Nov 27.

Cancer Risk Factors and Lifestyle Epidemiology Unit, Institute for Cancer Research, Prevention and Clinical Network (ISPRO), Florence, Italy. Electronic address:

We reviewed and meta-analysed the available evidence (until December 2019) about circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) levels and melanoma patients survival. We included twenty-six studies (>2000 patients overall), which included mostly stage III-IV cutaneous melanoma patients and differed widely in terms of systemic therapy received and somatic mutations that were searched. Patients with detectable ctDNA before treatment had worse progression-free survival (PFS) (summary hazard ratio (SHR) 2.47, 95 % confidence intervals (CI) 1.85-3.29) and overall survival (OS) (SHR 2.98, 95 % CI 2.26-3.92), with no difference by tumour stage. ctDNA detectability during follow-up was associated with poorer PFS (SHR 4.27, 95 %CI 2.75-6.63) and OS (SHR 3.91, 95 %CI 1.97-7.78); in the latter case, the association was stronger (p = 0.01) for stage IV vs. III melanomas. Between-estimates heterogeneity was low for all pooled estimates. ctDNA is a strong prognostic biomarker for advanced-stage melanoma patients, robust across tumour (e.g. genomic profile) and patients (e.g. systemic therapy) characteristics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.critrevonc.2020.103187DOI Listing
January 2021

Patients with locally advanced and metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma treated with immunotherapy in the era of COVID-19: stop or go? Data from five Italian referral cancer centers.

Ther Adv Med Oncol 2020 20;12:1758835920977002. Epub 2020 Nov 20.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma, Sarcoma, and Rare Tumors, IEO, European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, Milan, Italy.

Since the end of 2019, global healthcare systems have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. In oncology, the biggest questions concern interaction of COVID-19 with pre-existing cancer disease and with systemic anticancer treatments. With regards to immunotherapy, there is uncertainty about its effect in the context of COVID-19 in terms of probability and course of viral infection. Herein, we retrospectively report data of patients with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) treated with immunotherapy at five Italian referral cancer centers during the pandemic. cSCC is a disease poorly represented in the literature, typically affecting fragile, elderly patients, with multiple comorbidities and often immunosuppressed. Overall, 54 patients were identified, most of them coming from Lombardy and Piedmont, the two regions hit hardest by COVID in Italy. In most cases, our choice was to continue treatment, reserving temporary interruptions only to patients considered particularly at risk for age and comorbidity. A total of 9% of patients developed new-onset symptoms or had chest radiological assessment potentially related to COVID-19. Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected in all suspicious cases and two hospitalized patients were found to be positive. In conclusion, the outbreak of COVID-19 is a major worldwide health concern. Our data indicate that COVID-19 mortality in patients with cancer may be principally driven by advancing age, the presence of other comorbidities, and other cancer-related conditions (i.e. hospitalization). Our data further suggests the safety of continued use of PD-1 blockade during the COVID-19 pandemic (obviously implementing all the safety measures in the hospital environment) also considering the possible negative effects of a prolonged suspension on the course of the tumor evolution. We think it is useful to collect and report case studies coming from reference centers, because they can represent helpful examples for the scientific community of clinical management of patients affected by cancer in this difficult period and guide further research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1758835920977002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7684275PMC
November 2020

Effect of concomitant medications with immune-modulatory properties on the outcomes of patients with advanced cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors: development and validation of a novel prognostic index.

Eur J Cancer 2021 01 16;142:18-28. Epub 2020 Nov 16.

Clinical Oncology Unit, S.S. Annunziata Hospital, Chieti, Italy.

Background: Concomitant medications are known to impact on clinical outcomes of patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). We aimed weighing the role of different concomitant baseline medications to create a drug-based prognostic score.

Methods: We evaluated concomitant baseline medications at immunotherapy initiation for their impact on objective response rate (ORR), progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in a single-institution cohort of patients with advanced cancer treated with ICIs (training cohort, N = 217), and a drug-based prognostic score with the drugs resulting significantly impacting the OS was computed. Secondly, we externally validated the score in a large multicenter external cohort (n = 1012).

Results: In the training cohort (n = 217), the median age was 69 years (range: 32-89), and the primary tumours were non-small-cell lung cancer (70%), melanoma (14.7%), renal cell carcinoma (9.2%) and others (6%). Among baseline medications, corticosteroids (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.3; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.60-3.30), systemic antibiotics (HR = 2.07; 95% CI: 1.31-3.25) and proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) (HR = 1.57; 95% CI: 1.13-2.18) were significantly associated with OS. The prognostic score was calculated using these three drug classes, defining good, intermediate and poor prognosis patients. Within the training cohort, OS (p < 0.0001), PFS (p < 0.0001) and ORR (p = 0.0297) were significantly distinguished by the score stratification. The prognostic value of the score was also demonstrated in terms of OS (p < 0.0001), PFS (p < 0.0001) and ORR (p = 0.0006) within the external cohort.

Conclusion: Cumulative exposure to corticosteroids, antibiotics and PPIs (three likely microbiota-modulating drugs) leads to progressively worse outcomes after ICI therapy. We propose a simple score that can help stratifying patients in routine practice and clinical trials of ICIs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2020.09.033DOI Listing
January 2021

Course of Sars-CoV2 Infection in Patients with Cancer Treated with anti-PD-1: A Case Presentation and Review of the Literature.

Cancer Invest 2021 Jan 6;39(1):9-14. Epub 2020 Nov 6.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma, Sarcoma, and Rare Tumors, IEO, European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, Milan, Italy.

The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemia is a major health worldwide concern. Patients with cancer might have a worse outcome, because of the immunosuppression determined by the tumor itself and anti-cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The impact and course of viral infection in patients receiving immunotherapy remains unknown. We report the case of a patient with metastatic melanoma, long responder to anti PD-1 blockade who got infected with Sars CoV-2, recovering without sequelae. A critical review of literature was performed. Limited data available in literature support the possibility to continue the immunotherapy in patients with cancer under control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07357907.2020.1844893DOI Listing
January 2021

Adjuvant nivolumab versus ipilimumab in resected stage IIIB-C and stage IV melanoma (CheckMate 238): 4-year results from a multicentre, double-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial.

Lancet Oncol 2020 11 19;21(11):1465-1477. Epub 2020 Sep 19.

Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, NYU Langone Health, New York, NY, USA.

Background: Previously, findings from CheckMate 238, a double-blind, phase 3 adjuvant trial in patients with resected stage IIIB-C or stage IV melanoma, showed significant improvements in recurrence-free survival and distant metastasis-free survival with nivolumab versus ipilimumab. This report provides updated 4-year efficacy, initial overall survival, and late-emergent safety results.

Methods: This multicentre, double-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial was done in 130 academic centres, community hospitals, and cancer centres across 25 countries. Patients aged 15 years or older with resected stage IIIB-C or IV melanoma and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1 were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive nivolumab or ipilimumab via an interactive voice response system and stratified according to disease stage and baseline PD-L1 status of tumour cells. Patients received intravenous nivolumab 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks or intravenous ipilimumab 10 mg/kg every 3 weeks for four doses, and then every 12 weeks until 1 year of treatment, disease recurrence, unacceptable toxicity, or withdrawal of consent. The primary endpoint was recurrence-free survival by investigator assessment, and overall survival was a key secondary endpoint. Efficacy analyses were done in the intention-to-treat population (all randomly assigned patients). All patients who received at least one dose of study treatment were included in the safety analysis. The results presented in this report reflect the 4-year update of the ongoing study with a database lock date of Jan 30, 2020. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02388906.

Findings: Between March 30 and Nov 30, 2015, 906 patients were assigned to nivolumab (n=453) or ipilimumab (n=453). Median follow-up was 51·1 months (IQR 41·6-52·7) with nivolumab and 50·9 months (36·2-52·3) with ipilimumab; 4-year recurrence-free survival was 51·7% (95% CI 46·8-56·3) in the nivolumab group and 41·2% (36·4-45·9) in the ipilimumab group (hazard ratio [HR] 0·71 [95% CI 0·60-0·86]; p=0·0003). With 211 (100 [22%] of 453 patients in the nivolumab group and 111 [25%] of 453 patients in the ipilimumab group) of 302 anticipated deaths observed (about 73% of the originally planned 88% power needed for significance), 4-year overall survival was 77·9% (95% CI 73·7-81·5) with nivolumab and 76·6% (72·2-80·3) with ipilimumab (HR 0·87 [95% CI 0·66-1·14]; p=0·31). Late-emergent grade 3-4 treatment-related adverse events were reported in three (1%) of 452 and seven (2%) of 453 patients. The most common late-emergent treatment-related grade 3 or 4 adverse events reported were diarrhoea, diabetic ketoacidosis, and pneumonitis (one patient each) in the nivolumab group, and colitis (two patients) in the ipilimumab group. Two previously reported treatment-related deaths in the ipilimumab group were attributed to study drug toxicity (marrow aplasia in one patient and colitis in one patient); no further treatment-related deaths were reported.

Interpretation: At a minimum of 4 years' follow-up, nivolumab demonstrated sustained recurrence-free survival benefit versus ipilimumab in resected stage IIIB-C or IV melanoma indicating a long-term treatment benefit with nivolumab. With fewer deaths than anticipated, overall survival was similar in both groups. Nivolumab remains an efficacious adjuvant treatment for patients with resected high-risk melanoma, with a safety profile that is more tolerable than that of ipilimumab.

Funding: Bristol Myers Squibb and Ono Pharmaceutical.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(20)30494-0DOI Listing
November 2020

Data of Italian Cancer Centers from two regions with high incidence of SARS CoV-2 infection provide evidence for the successful management of patients with locally advanced and metastatic melanoma treated with immunotherapy in the era of COVID-19.

Semin Oncol 2020 10 7;47(5):302-304. Epub 2020 Aug 7.

Division of Medical Oncology for Melanoma, Sarcoma, and Rare Tumors, IEO, European Institute of Oncology IRCCS, Milan, Italy.

Background: Patients with cancer are presumed to have a higher risk to contract SARS-CoV-2 infection, because of their immunosuppressed status. The impact and course of COVID-19 infection in cancer patients receiving immunotherapy remains unknown.

Objectives: To evaluate the safety of the management of patients with advanced melanoma treated with immunotherapy in 2 Cancer Centers located in areas of Italy with a high incidence of COVID-19 infections.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed data from January 1 to April 30, 2020 on patients with locally advanced and metastatic melanoma receiving immunotherapy at either Istituto Europeo di Oncologia or Città della Salute e della Scienza University Hospital.

Results: One-hundred and sixty-nine patients with stage III and IV melanoma were treated with an immunotherapy regimen at either Istituto Europeo di Oncologia or Città della Salute e della Scienza University Hospital. One-hundred and four patients continued treatment without interruption or delay, while 49 patients had a treatment delay. The main reasons for treatment delay were older age (median age of the group of patients with or without treatment-delay, respectively 60 and 69 years, P value <0.001) and/or presence of comorbidities (percentage of patients with at least one comorbidity respectively 81% and 62%, in patients with or without treatment delay, P value = 0.001). One-hundred and twelve patients had at least 1 thoracic CT scan performed and radiological findings suspicious for COVID-19 were observed in only 7 cases (4%). Fifteen patients (9%) developed symptoms potentially related to COVID-19; nasopharyngeal swabs were collected in 9 patients and only 1 was positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Conclusions: The incidence of symptomatic COVID-19 infection observed in our cohort of patients with advanced malignant melanoma treated with immunotherapy appears meaningfully lower as compared with that reported in the overall population in Italy as well as in patients affected by solid tumors. We conclude that in patients with locally advanced and metastatic melanoma, immunotherapy can be safely continued without delay in the majority of cases, reserving precautionary delay only for the most frail patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.seminoncol.2020.07.010DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413095PMC
October 2020

Neuromuscular complications following targeted therapy in cancer patients: beyond the immune checkpoint inhibitors. Case reports and review of the literature.

Neurol Sci 2021 Apr 11;42(4):1405-1409. Epub 2020 Aug 11.

Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health (DINOGMI), University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy.

Introduction: In the last years, many new drugs have been developed targeting different oncology pathways, overall improving both quality of life and survival in several malignancies. However, the increase of those therapies is associated with novel toxicities, mainly immune-related adverse events (irAEs), never observed before. Different irAEs are now well characterized, and, among them, neuromuscular complications, following immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICPi) therapy, are increasingly studied and described. However, there are also neurological complications related to the use of other targeted therapies, less known and probably underestimated. Herein we describe two oncological patients who developed neuromuscular diseases after administration of targeted therapies, different from ICPi.

Case Reports: The first patient was treated with the combination of Vemurafenib and Cobimetinib, BRAF and MEK inhibitors, respectively, for a cutaneous melanoma. One year after the beginning of the combined treatment, she developed a sub-acute motor neuropathy with predominant cranial nerve involvement. She was successfully treated with methylprednisolone. The second patient received therapy with Imatinib, tyrosine kinase inhibitor and precursor of the targeted therapy, for a gastrointestinal stromal tumour. Few days after the first administration, he developed generalized myasthenia gravis with respiratory failure. Clinical remission was obtained with plasma-exchange, intravenous immunoglobulins and steroids. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: We strengthen the relevance of neuromuscular complications which may occur long after treatment start or in patients receiving not only the latest ICPi but also "older" and apparently better-known targeted therapies. Also in the latter cases, an immune-mediated "off-target" pathogenic mechanism can be hypothesized, and consequences can be life threatening, if not promptly diagnosed and appropriately managed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-020-04604-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7955989PMC
April 2021
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