Publications by authors named "Paolo Antonio Ascierto"

116 Publications

IL-6 modulation for COVID-19: the right patients at the right time?

J Immunother Cancer 2021 04;9(4)

Institute of Immunology and the CAS Key Laboratory of Innate Immunity and Chronic Disease, School of Life Science and Medical Center; Department of Pathology, The First Affiliated Hospital of USTC, Division of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.

The ongoing pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has disrupted the global economy and strained healthcare systems to their limits. After the virus first emerged in late 2019, the first intervention that demonstrated significant reductions in mortality for severe COVID-19 in large-scale trials was corticosteroids. Additional options that may reduce the burden on the healthcare system by reducing the number of patients requiring intensive care unit support are desperately needed, yet no therapy has conclusively established benefit in randomized studies for the management of moderate or mild cases of disease. Severe COVID-19 disease is characterized by a respiratory distress syndrome accompanied by elevated levels of several systemic cytokines, in a profile that shares several features with known inflammatory pathologies such as hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and cytokine release syndrome secondary to chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. Based on these observations, modulation of inflammatory cytokines, particularly interleukin (IL)-6, was proposed as a strategy to mitigate severe disease. Despite encouraging recoveries with anti-IL-6 agents, especially tocilizumab from single-arm studies, early randomized trials returned mixed results in terms of clinical benefit with these interventions. Later, larger trials such as RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP, however, are establishing anti-IL-6 in combination with steroids as a potential option for hypoxic patients with evidence of hyperinflammation. We propose that a positive feedback loop primarily mediated by macrophages and monocytes initiates the inflammatory cascade in severe COVID-19, and thus optimal benefit with anti-IL-6 therapies may require intervention during a finite window of opportunity at the outset of hyperinflammation but before fulminant disease causes irreversible tissue damage-as defined clinically by C reactive protein levels higher than 75 mg/L.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-002285DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8042594PMC
April 2021

Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies in the town of Ariano Irpino (Avellino, Campania, Italy): a population-based study.

Future Sci OA 2021 Jan 12;7(4):FSO673. Epub 2021 Jan 12.

Centro di Referenza Nazionale per l'Analisi e Studio di Correlazione tra Ambiente, Animale e Uomo, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Mezzogiorno, Portici 80055, Italy.

The Italian municipality of Ariano Irpino (Avellino, Campania, Italy) was locked down by the regional authorities from March until April 2020 after several citizens tested positive for SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). A serological mass screening campaign targeting the Ariano Irpino population using the Roche Cobas Elecsys anti-SARS-CoV-2 assay was organized by the Zoo-Prophylactic Institute of Southern Italy (Portici, Italy) and conducted in cooperation with the Local Health Unit (Azienda Sanitaria Locale - ASL - Avellino, Avellino, Italy), the Department of Public Health of University Federico II (Naples, Italy) and Department of Health Services of Azienda Ospedaliera dei Colli-Cotugno and Monaldi Hospital (Naples, Italy) in May 2020. A total of 13,218 asymptomatic individuals were reviewed in this analysis. A total of 738 citizens tested positive for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (398 females, 340 males). The overall prevalence in the sample was 5.6% (95% CI: 5.2-6.0). Among seropositive citizens, 101 cases tested positive on RT-PCR (0.76% of the overall population). Among citizens aged 14-18, 18-65 and >65 years, the seroprevalence was equal to 6.1 (95% CI: 4.1-8.7), 5.6 (95% CI: 5.1-6.1) and 4% (95% CI: 3.3-4.8), respectively. In the pediatric cohort (<14 years old), seroprevalence was 13% (95% CI: 10.2-16.2). A serological-based screening strategy could be a cost-effective public health intervention to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2144/fsoa-2020-0203DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802431PMC
January 2021

Immunotherapy may protect cancer patients from SARS-CoV-2 infection: a single-center retrospective analysis.

J Transl Med 2021 03 31;19(1):132. Epub 2021 Mar 31.

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

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic has created unique challenges to healthcare systems throughout the world. Ensuring subjects' safety is mandatory especially in oncology, in consideration of cancer patients' particular frailty. We examined the proportion of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) IgM and/or IgG positive subjects in three different groups from Istituto Nazionale Tumori - IRCCS "Fondazione G. Pascale" in Naples (Campania region, Italy): cancer patients treated with Innovative Immunotherapy (Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors, ICIs), cancer patients undergoing standard Chemotherapies (CHTs) and healthcare providers. 9 out of 287 (3.1%) ICIs patients resulted positive, with a significant lower percentage in respect to CHTs patients (39 positive subjects out of 598, 6.5%) (p = 0.04). There was no statistically significant difference between ICIs cohort and healthcare providers, 48 out of 1050 resulting positive (4.6%). Performing a Propensity Score Matching based on gender and tumor stage, the effect of treatment on seropositivity was analyzed through a regression logistic model and the ICIs treatment resulted to be the only protective factor significantly (p = 0.03) associated with positivity (odds ratio-OR: 0.41; 95% confidence interval-CI 0.18-0.91). According to these preliminary data, ICIs would appear to be a protective factor against the onset of COVID-19 infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-021-02798-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8010485PMC
March 2021

Perspectives on COVID-19 and cancer immunotherapy: a review series.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 03;9(3)

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

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2021-002489DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7944412PMC
March 2021

Emerging PD-1/PD-L1 antagonists for the treatment of malignant melanoma.

Expert Opin Emerg Drugs 2021 Mar 19:1-14. Epub 2021 Mar 19.

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

Introduction: Increased understanding of the interactive mechanisms between tumors and the immune system led to the development of immune checkpoint inhibitors, which have revolutioned the treatment of metastatic melanoma and subsequently many other tumors. In 2014, nivolumab and pembrolizumab, two checkpoint inhibitors binding to PD-1, were approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Since then, a plethora of new molecules have enriched the armamentarium against melanoma.

Areas Covered: This review summarizes the last updates about treatment with nivolumab and pembrolizumab, data on other PD-1/PDL-1 agents such as spartalizumab and atezolizumab and emerging compounds, new combinations with NKTR-214, anti LAG-3, anti IDO-1 and TVEC, new checkpoint inhibitors (e.g. TIM-3 or TIGIT) and other new molecules for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Expert Opinion: Currently, several ongoing clinical trials are investigating novel molecules, or immunotherapy combinations, in order to achieve even better survival outcomes for patients, overcoming resistance mechanisms and improving toxicity profiles. The challenge in the near future will be to select the most appropriate treatments according to the specific characteristics of the patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14728214.2021.1901884DOI Listing
March 2021

Could asymptomatic carriers spread the SARS-CoV-2 infection? Experience from the Italian second wave.

J Transl Med 2021 03 2;19(1):93. Epub 2021 Mar 2.

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

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-021-02762-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7922722PMC
March 2021

SARS-CoV-2 infection and adverse events in patients with cancer receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors: an observational prospective study.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 02;9(2)

Unit of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology and Hematology, ASST Papa Giovanni XXIII, Bergamo, Lombardia, Italy.

Background: In ambulatory patients with cancer with asymptomatic or pauci-symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, the safety of targeted therapies (TTs), chemotherapy (CT) or immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) therapy is still unknown.

Material And Methods: From the start of the first epidemic wave of SARS-CoV-2 in Bergamo, Italy, we have prospectively screened all consecutive outpatients who presented for treatment to the Oncology Division of the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital, Bergamo for SARS-CoV-2 antigen expression. We identified patients treated with ICIs and compared these to patients with the same cancer subtypes treated with TTs or CT.

Results: Between March 5 and May 18, 293 consecutive patients (49% melanoma, 34% non-small cell lung cancer, 9% renal cell carcinoma, 8% other) were included in this study: 159 (54%), 50 (17%) and 84 (29%) received ICIs, CT or TTs, respectively. Overall 89 patients (30.0%) were SARS-CoV-2 positive. Mortality of SARS-CoV-2-positive patients was statistically significantly higher compared with SARS-CoV-2 negative patients (8/89 vs 3/204, respectively, Fisher's exact test p=0.004). All deaths were due to COVID-19. Serious adverse events (SAEs) were more frequent in SARS-CoV-2-positive patients compared with SARS-CoV-2-negative cases (Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel (CMH) test p=0.0008). The incidence of SAEs in SARS-CoV-2 positive compared with SARS-CoV-2 negative patients was similar in ICI and CT patients (17.3% and 3.7% for positive and negative patients in ICIs and 15.4% and 2.7% in CT, Breslow-Day test p=0.891). No COVID-19-related SAEs were observed in the TTs patients.

Conclusions: The incidence of SAEs was higher for SARS-CoV-2-positive patients treated with ICIs and CT, mostly in advanced disease. No SAEs were observed in patients treated with TTs. SAEs were COVID-19 related rather than treatment related. Treatment with ICIs does not appear to significantly increase risk of SAEs compared with CT. This information should be considered when determining treatment options for patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001694DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7887862PMC
February 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

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

J Immunother Cancer 2021 01;9(1)

Melanoma Institute Australia and University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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

A Psychosocial Genomics Pilot Study in Oncology for Verifying Clinical, Inflammatory and Psychological Effects of Mind-Body Transformations-Therapy (MBT-T) in Breast Cancer Patients: Preliminary Results.

J Clin Med 2021 Jan 3;10(1). Epub 2021 Jan 3.

Department of Breast and Thoracic Oncology, Division of Breast Medical Oncology, Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS "Fondazione G. Pascale", 80131 Naples, Italy.

Several studies have highlighted the key role of chronic inflammation in breast cancer development, progression, metastasis, and therapeutic outcome. These processes are mediated through a variety of cytokines and hormones that exert their biological actions either locally or distantly via systemic circulation. Recent findings suggest that positive psychosocial experiences, including psychotherapeutic interventions and therapeutic mind-body protocols, can modulate the inflammatory response by reducing the expression of genes/proteins associated with inflammation and stress-related pathways. Our preliminary results indicate that a specific mind-body therapy (MBT-T) could induce a significant reduction of the release of different cytokines and chemokines, such as SCGFβ, SDF-1α, MCP3, GROα, LIF, and IL-18, in the sera of breast cancer patients compared to a control group, suggesting that MBT-T could represent a promising approach to improve the wellness and outcome of breast cancer patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm10010136DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7796278PMC
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

The clinical and translational research activities at the INT - IRCCS "Fondazione Pascale" cancer center (Naples, Italy) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infect Agent Cancer 2020 Nov 23;15(1):69. Epub 2020 Nov 23.

Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione Pascale, Naples, Italy.

COVID-19 pandemic following the outbreak in China and Western Europe, where it finally lost the momentum, is now devastating North and South America. It has not been identified the reason and the molecular mechanisms of the two different patterns of the pulmonary host responses to the virus from a minimal disease in young subjects to a severe distress syndrome (ARDS) in older subjects, particularly those with previous chronic diseases (including diabetes) and cancer. The Management of the Istituto Nazionale Tumori - IRCCS "Fondazione Pascale" in Naples (INT-Pascale), along with all Health professionals decided not to interrupt the treatment of those hospitalized and to continue, even if after a careful triage in order not to allow SARS-CoV-2 positive subjects to access, to take care of cancer patients with serious conditions. Although very few (n = 3) patients developed a symptomatic COVID-19 and required the transfer to a COVID-19 area of the Institute, no patients died during the hospitalization and completed their oncology treatment. Besides monitoring of the patients, all employees of the Institute (physicians, nurses, researchers, lawyers, accountants, gatekeepers, guardians, janitors) have been tested for a possible exposure. Personnel identified as positive, has been promptly subjected to home quarantine and subdued to health surveillance. One severe case of respiratory distress has been reported in a positive employees and one death of a family member. Further steps to home monitoring of COVID-19 clinical course have been taken with the development of remote Wi-Fi connected digital devices for the detection of early signs of respiratory distress, including heart rate and oxygen saturation.In conclusion cancer care has been performed and continued safely also during COVID-19 pandemic and further remote home strategies are in progress to ensure the appropriate monitoring of cancer patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13027-020-00330-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7681193PMC
November 2020

Integrated analysis of concomitant medications and oncological outcomes from PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors in clinical practice.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 11;8(2)

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

Background: Concomitant medications, such as steroids, proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and antibiotics, might affect clinical outcomes with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Methods: We conducted a multicenter observational retrospective study aimed at evaluating the impact of concomitant medications on clinical outcomes, by weighing their associations with baseline clinical characteristics (including performance status, burden of disease and body mass index) and the underlying causes for their prescription. This analysis included consecutive stage IV patients with cancer, who underwent treatment with single agent antiprogrammed death-1/programmed death ligand-1 (PD-1/PD-L1) with standard doses and schedules at the medical oncology departments of 20 Italian institutions. Each medication taken at the immunotherapy initiation was screened and collected into key categories as follows: corticosteroids, antibiotics, gastric acid suppressants (including proton pump inhibitors - PPIs), statins and other lipid-lowering agents, aspirin, anticoagulants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ACE inhibitors/Angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium antagonists, β-blockers, metformin and other oral antidiabetics, opioids.

Results: From June 2014 to March 2020, 1012 patients were included in the analysis. Primary tumors were: non-small cell lung cancer (52.2%), melanoma (26%), renal cell carcinoma (18.3%) and others (3.6%). Baseline statins (HR 1.60 (95% CI 1.14 to 2.25), p=0.0064), aspirin (HR 1.47 (95% CI 1.04 to 2.08, p=0.0267) and β-blockers (HR 1.76 (95% CI 1.16 to 2.69), p=0.0080) were confirmed to be independently related to an increased objective response rate. Patients receiving cancer-related steroids (HR 1.72 (95% CI 1.43 to 2.07), p<0.0001), prophylactic systemic antibiotics (HR 1.85 (95% CI 1.23 to 2.78), p=0.0030), prophylactic gastric acid suppressants (HR 1.29 (95% CI 1.09 to 1.53), p=0.0021), PPIs (HR 1.26 (95% CI 1.07 to 1.48), p=0.0050), anticoagulants (HR 1.43 (95% CI: 1.16 to 1.77), p=0.0007) and opioids (HR 1.71 (95% CI 1.28 to 2.28), p=0.0002) were confirmed to have a significantly higher risk of disease progression. Patients receiving cancer-related steroids (HR 2.16 (95% CI 1.76 to 2.65), p<0.0001), prophylactic systemic antibiotics (HR 1.93 (95% CI 1.25 to 2.98), p=0.0030), prophylactic gastric acid suppressants (HR 1.29 (95% CI 1.06 to 1.57), p=0.0091), PPI (HR 1.26 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.52), p=0.0172), anticoagulants (HR 1.45 (95% CI 1.14 to 1.84), p=0.0024) and opioids (HR 1.53 (95% CI 1.11 to 2.11), p=0.0098) were confirmed to have a significantly higher risk of death.

Conclusion: We confirmed the association between baseline steroids administered for cancer-related indication, systemic antibiotics, PPIs and worse clinical outcomes with PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors, which can be assumed to have immune-modulating detrimental effects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001361DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7646355PMC
November 2020

When steroids are not enough in immune-related hepatitis: current clinical challenges discussed on the basis of a case report.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 11;8(2)

First Department of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

Unleashing adaptive immunity via immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICPIs) in many cancer types led to durable antitumor responses and prolonged survivals and also added some new immune-related adverse events (irAEs) to the 'old-fashioned' safety profile of chemotherapy. Among bowel and endocrine irAEs, immune-mediated hepatotoxicity/hepatitis is a less common and far less well-studied toxicity, which, however, could develop into a serious complication, especially when it becomes persistent or refractory to steroids. Its incidence, onset and severity vary widely, depending on the type of underlying treated cancer, the class, the dosage and the duration of immunotherapy as well as the way of its administration (as a single agent or in combination with other ICPI or chemotherapy). In this study, we present a patient with metastatic melanoma who developed severe steroid-resistant ir-hepatitis after treatment with ipilimumab and required triple concurrent immunosuppression with prednisolone, mycofenolate mofetil and tacrolimus in order for his liver toxicity to be resolved. Intrigued by this case, we focused further on melanoma, as the disease-paradigm of immunotherapy in cancer, reviewed the reported incidence of hepatotoxicity among phase III ICPIs-containing trials on melanoma and discussed the main clinical considerations regarding the diagnosis and the management of persistent/steroid-refractory ir-hepatitis. As more clinical experience is gradually gained on this challenging topic, better answers are provided to questions about the appropriate diagnostic workup, the necessity of liver biopsy, the available immunosuppressive options beyond corticosteroids (their combinations and/or their sequence) as well as the correct decision on withdrawing or resuming immunotherapy. Nonetheless, a thorough multidisciplinary discussion is still required to individualize the overall approach in each case after failure of steroids.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001322DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7607607PMC
November 2020

Tocilizumab for patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. The single-arm TOCIVID-19 prospective trial.

J Transl Med 2020 10 21;18(1):405. Epub 2020 Oct 21.

Department of Mental Health and Preventive Medicine, Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, Caserta, Italy.

Background: Tocilizumab blocks pro-inflammatory activity of interleukin-6 (IL-6), involved in pathogenesis of pneumonia the most frequent cause of death in COVID-19 patients.

Methods: A multicenter, single-arm, hypothesis-driven trial was planned, according to a phase 2 design, to study the effect of tocilizumab on lethality rates at 14 and 30 days (co-primary endpoints, a priori expected rates being 20 and 35%, respectively). A further prospective cohort of patients, consecutively enrolled after the first cohort was accomplished, was used as a secondary validation dataset. The two cohorts were evaluated jointly in an exploratory multivariable logistic regression model to assess prognostic variables on survival.

Results: In the primary intention-to-treat (ITT) phase 2 population, 180/301 (59.8%) subjects received tocilizumab, and 67 deaths were observed overall. Lethality rates were equal to 18.4% (97.5% CI: 13.6-24.0, P = 0.52) and 22.4% (97.5% CI: 17.2-28.3, P < 0.001) at 14 and 30 days, respectively. Lethality rates were lower in the validation dataset, that included 920 patients. No signal of specific drug toxicity was reported. In the exploratory multivariable logistic regression analysis, older age and lower PaO2/FiO2 ratio negatively affected survival, while the concurrent use of steroids was associated with greater survival. A statistically significant interaction was found between tocilizumab and respiratory support, suggesting that tocilizumab might be more effective in patients not requiring mechanical respiratory support at baseline.

Conclusions: Tocilizumab reduced lethality rate at 30 days compared with null hypothesis, without significant toxicity. Possibly, this effect could be limited to patients not requiring mechanical respiratory support at baseline. Registration EudraCT (2020-001110-38); clinicaltrials.gov (NCT04317092).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-020-02573-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7576974PMC
October 2020

Impact of COVID-19 outbreak on cancer immunotherapy in Italy: a survey of young oncologists.

Authors:
Margaret Ottaviano Marcello Curvietto Pasquale Rescigno Marianna Tortora Giovannella Palmieri Diana Giannarelli Michele Aieta Pasquale Assalone Laura Attademo Antonio Avallone Francesco Bloise Davide Bosso Valentina Borzillo Giuseppe Buono Giuseppe Calderoni Francesca Caputo Giacomo Cartenì Diletta Cavallero Alessia Cavo Fortunato Ciardiello Raffaele Conca Vincenza Conteduca Stefano De Falco Marco De Felice Michelino De Laurentiis Pietro De Placido Sabino De Placido Irene De Santo Alfonso De Stefano Carminia Maria Della Corte Rossella Di Franco Vincenzo Di Lauro Antonietta Fabbrocini Piera Federico Lucia Festino Pasqualina Giordano Mario Giuliano Cesare Gridelli Antonio Maria Grimaldi Michela Lia Antonella Lucia Marretta Valentina Massa Alessia Mennitto Sara Merler Valeria Merz Carlo Messina Marco Messina Monica Milano Alessandro Marco Minisini Vincenzo Montesarchio Alessandro Morabito Floriana Morgillo Brigitta Mucci Lucia Nappi Fabiana Napolitano Immacolata Paciolla Martina Pagliuca Giuseppe Palmieri Sara Parola Stefano Pepe Angelica Petrillo Francovito Piantedosi Luisa Piccin Fernanda Picozzi Erica Pietroluongo Sandro Pignata Veronica Prati Vittorio Riccio Mario Rosanova Alice Rossi Anna Russo Massimiliano Salati Giuseppe Santabarbara Andrea Sbrana Ester Simeone Antonia Silvestri Massimiliano Spada Paolo Tarantino Paola Taveggia Federica Tomei Tortora Vincenzo Dario Trapani Claudia Trojanello Vito Vanella Sabrina Vari Jole Ventriglia Maria Grazia Vitale Fabiana Vitiello Caterina Vivaldi Claudia von Arx Francesca Zacchi Ilaria Zampiva Andrea Zivi Bruno Daniele Paolo Antonio Ascierto

J Immunother Cancer 2020 10;8(2)

Unit of Melanoma, Cancer Immunotherapy and Development Therapeutics, Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione Pascale, Napoli, Campania, Italy

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has overwhelmed the health systems worldwide. Data regarding the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients (CPs) undergoing or candidate for immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are lacking. We depicted the practice and adaptations in the management of patients with solid tumors eligible or receiving ICIs during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on Campania region.

Methods: This survey (25 questions), promoted by the young section of SCITO (Società Campana di ImmunoTerapia Oncologica) Group, was circulated among Italian young oncologists practicing in regions variously affected by the pandemic: high (group 1), medium (group 2) and low (group 3) prevalence of SARS-CoV-2-positive patients. For Campania region, the physician responders were split into those working in cancer centers (CC), university hospitals (UH) and general hospitals (GH). Percentages of agreement, among High (H) versus Medium (M) and versus Low (L) group for Italy and among CC, UH and GH for Campania region, were compared by using Fisher's exact tests for dichotomous answers and χ test for trends relative to the questions with 3 or more options.

Results: This is the first Italian study to investigate the COVID-19 impact on cancer immunotherapy, unique in its type and very clear in the results. The COVID-19 pandemic seemed not to affect the standard practice in the prescription and delivery of ICIs in Italy. Telemedicine was widely used. There was high consensus to interrupt immunotherapy in SARS-CoV-2-positive patients and to adopt ICIs with longer schedule interval. The majority of the responders tended not to delay the start of ICIs; there were no changes in supportive treatments, but some of the physicians opted for delaying surgeries (if part of patients' planned treatment approach). The results from responders in Campania did not differ significantly from the national ones.

Conclusion: Our study highlights the efforts of Italian oncologists to maintain high standards of care for CPs treated with ICIs, regardless the regional prevalence of COVID-19, suggesting the adoption of similar solutions. Research on patients treated with ICIs and experiencing COVID-19 will clarify the safety profile to continue the treatments, thus informing on the most appropriate clinical conducts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001154DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7565202PMC
October 2020

An Italian Retrospective Survey on Bone Metastasis in Melanoma: Impact of Immunotherapy and Radiotherapy on Survival.

Front Oncol 2020 15;10:1652. Epub 2020 Sep 15.

Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy.

Background: We performed a multicenter retrospective observational study to investigate the impact of clinical-pathological features and therapeutic strategies on both the complications and survival of patients with bone metastases (BMs) from malignant melanoma.

Patients And Methods: A total of 305 patients with melanoma and radiological evidence of BMs were retrospectively enrolled from 19 Italian centers. All patients received conventional treatments in accordance with each own treating physician's practice. Both univariate and multivariate models were used to explore the impact of melanoma features, including skeletal-related events (SREs), and different treatments on both overall survival (OS) and time-to-SREs. The chi-squared test evaluated the suitability of several parameters to predict the occurrence of SREs.

Results: Eighty-three percent of patients had metachronous BMs. The prevalent (90%) bone metastatic site was the spine, while 45% had involvement of the appendicular skeleton. Forty-seven percent experienced at least one SRE, including palliative radiotherapy (RT) in 37% of cases. No melanoma-associated factor was predictive of the development of SREs, although patients receiving early treatment with bone-targeted agents showed 62% lower risk and delayed time of SRE occurrence. Median OS from the diagnosis of bone metastasis was 10.7 months. The multivariate analysis revealed as independent prognostic factors the number of BMs, number of metastatic organs, baseline lactate dehydrogenase levels, and treatment with targeted therapy or immunotherapy. Subgroup analyses showed the best OS (median = 16.5 months) in the subset of patients receiving both immunotherapy and palliative RT.

Conclusion: Based on our results, patients undergoing immunotherapy and palliative RT showed an OS benefit suggestive of a possible additive effect. The apparent protective role of bone targeting agent use on SREs observed in our analysis should deserve prospective evaluation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2020.01652DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7523509PMC
September 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

Severe prolonged neutropenia following administration of tocilizumab in a patient affected by COVID-19: a case report and brief review of the literature.

Drugs Ther Perspect 2020 Sep 14:1-5. Epub 2020 Sep 14.

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

Tocilizumab is one of the newest therapeutic options for the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by the recently discovered severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) β-coronavirus. Several trials are currently ongoing to assess the efficacy and safety profile of tocilizumab in treating ARDS. In this article, we present the case of a Black patient with acute pneumonia who benefited greatly from tocilizumab, but developed severe prolonged neutropenia. Considering the increasing use of tocilizumab among patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), this case warrants further research regarding the possible adverse hematological effects that need to be monitored in order to prevent secondary infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40267-020-00777-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7487439PMC
September 2020

Outcomes and biomarker analyses among patients with COVID-19 treated with interleukin 6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist sarilumab at a single institution in Italy.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 08;8(2)

Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione Pascale, Napoli, Italy

Background: The inflammatory pathology observed in severe COVID-19 disease caused by the 2019 novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is characterized by elevated serum levels of C reactive protein (CRP) and cytokines, including interferon gamma, interleukin 8 (IL-8), and interleukin 6 (IL-6). Initial reports from the outbreak in Italy, China and the USA have provided anecdotal evidence of improved outcomes with the administration of anti-IL-6 agents, and large-scale trials evaluating these therapies are ongoing.

Study Description: In this retrospective case series, clinical outcomes and correlates of response to treatment with the IL-6 receptor antagonist sarilumab are described for 15 patients with COVID-19 from a single institution in Southern Italy. Among 10 patients whose symptoms improved after sarilumab treatment, rapid decreases in CRP levels corresponded with clinical improvement. Lower levels of IL-6 at baseline as well as lower neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio as compared with patients whose COVID-19 did not improve with treatment were associated with sarilumab-responsive disease.

Conclusions: This observation may reflect a possible clinical benefit regarding early intervention with IL-6-modulatory therapies for COVID-19 and that CRP could be a potential biomarker of response to treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001089DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7418768PMC
August 2020

Rapid and Impressive Response to a Combined Treatment with Single-Dose Tocilizumab and NIV in a Patient with COVID-19 Pneumonia/ARDS.

Medicina (Kaunas) 2020 Jul 27;56(8). Epub 2020 Jul 27.

Melanoma, Cancer Immunotherapy and Development Therapeutics Unit, Istituto Nazionale Tumori-IRCCS-"Fondazione G. Pascale", 80131 Naples, Italy.

Treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to COVID-19 pneumonia (CARDS) represents a clinical challenge, requiring often invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV). Since the pathogenesis of CARDS it probably involves a direct viral attack to pulmonary and endothelium cells, and immune-mediated inflammation with dysfunctional coagulation, it was suggested to interfere with interleukin-6 (IL-6) activity by using the IL-6 receptor monoclonal antibody tocilizumab (TCZ). We reported the case of a 54-year-old 100 kg male COVID-19 patient (BMI 29) with severe respiratory insufficiency featuring dyspnea and hypoxia (SpO 89% on room; PaO 53 mmHg). Despite treatment with antiviral and non-invasive ventilation (NIV), after 24 h there was a progressive worsening of clinical conditions with higher fever (40 °C), increased dyspnea, and hypoxia (PaO/FiO or P/F ratio of 150). The patient was at the limit to be sedated and intubated for IMV. He was treated with tocilizumab (8 mg/Kg i.v., single shot 800 mg) and NIV in the prone positioning. After only 96 h, the clinical, laboratory, and imaging findings showed incredible improvement. There was an important gain in oxygenation (P/F 300), a decrease of C-reactive protein values, and a decrease of the fever. Both the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) and the derived NLR ratio dropped down to 44%. Chest imaging confirmed the favorable response. This case suggested that for CARDS management efforts are needed for reducing its underlying inflammatory processes. Through a multiprofessional approach, the combination of IL-6-targeting therapies with calibrated ventilatory strategies may represent a winning strategy for improving outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/medicina56080377DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7466335PMC
July 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

MicroRNAs as Key Players in Melanoma Cell Resistance to MAPK and Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Jun 26;21(12). Epub 2020 Jun 26.

Neoplastic Progression Unit, Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS 'Fondazione G. Pascale', 80131 Naples, Italy.

Advances in the use of targeted and immune therapies have revolutionized the clinical management of melanoma patients, prolonging significantly their overall and progression-free survival. However, both targeted and immune therapies suffer limitations due to genetic mutations and epigenetic modifications, which determine a great heterogeneity and phenotypic plasticity of melanoma cells. Acquired resistance of melanoma patients to inhibitors of BRAF (BRAFi) and MEK (MEKi), which block the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, limits their prolonged use. On the other hand, immune checkpoint inhibitors improve the outcomes of patients in only a subset of them and the molecular mechanisms underlying lack of responses are under investigation. There is growing evidence that altered expression levels of microRNAs (miRNA)s induce drug-resistance in tumor cells and that restoring normal expression of dysregulated miRNAs may re-establish drug sensitivity. However, the relationship between specific miRNA signatures and acquired resistance of melanoma to MAPK and immune checkpoint inhibitors is still limited and not fully elucidated. In this review, we provide an updated overview of how miRNAs induce resistance or restore melanoma cell sensitivity to mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitors (MAPKi) as well as on the relationship existing between miRNAs and immune evasion by melanoma cell resistant to MAPKi.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21124544DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352536PMC
June 2020

Overall survival at 5 years of follow-up in a phase III trial comparing ipilimumab 10 mg/kg with 3 mg/kg in patients with advanced melanoma.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 06;8(1)

Center for Immuno-Oncology, University Hospital of Siena, Instituto Toscano Tumori, Siena, Italy.

Background: We have previously reported significantly longer overall survival (OS) with ipilimumab 10 mg/kg versus ipilimumab 3 mg/kg in patients with advanced melanoma, with higher incidences of adverse events (AEs) at 10 mg/kg. This follow-up analysis reports a 5-year update of OS and safety.

Methods: This randomized, multicenter, double-blind, phase III trial included patients with untreated or previously treated unresectable stage III or IV melanoma. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to ipilimumab 10 mg/kg or 3 mg/kg every 3 weeks for 4 doses. The primary end point was OS.

Results: At a minimum follow-up of 61 months, median OS was 15.7 months (95% CI 11.6 to 17.8) at 10 mg/kg and 11.5 months (95% CI 9.9 to 13.3) at 3 mg/kg (HR 0.84, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.99; p=0.04). In a subgroup analysis, median OS of patients with asymptomatic brain metastasis was 7.0 months (95% CI 4.0 to 12.8) in the 10 mg/kg group and 5.7 months (95% CI 4.2 to 7.0) in the 3 mg/kg group. In patients with wild-type or mutant tumors, median OS was 13.8 months (95% CI 10.2 to 17.0) and 33.2 months (95% CI 19.4 to 45.2) in the 10 mg/kg group, and 11.2 months (95% CI 9.2 to 13.8) and 19.7 months (95% CI 11.6 to 25.3) in the 3 mg/kg group, respectively. The incidence of grade 3/4 treatment-related AEs was 36% in the 10 mg/kg group vs 20% in the 3 mg/kg group, and deaths due to treatment-related AEs occurred in four (1%) and two patients (1%), respectively.

Conclusions: This 61-month follow-up of a phase III trial showed sustained long-term survival in patients with advanced melanoma who started metastatic treatment with ipilimumab monotherapy, and confirmed the significant benefit for those who received ipilimumab 10 mg/kg vs 3 mg/kg. These results suggest the emergence of a plateau in the OS curve, consistent with previous ipilimumab studies.

Trial Registration Number: NCT01515189.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2019-000391DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7279645PMC
June 2020

The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer perspective on regulation of interleukin-6 signaling in COVID-19-related systemic inflammatory response.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 05;8(1)

Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione 'G. Pascale', Napels, Italy

The pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has placed an unprecedented burden on healthcare systems around the world. In patients who experience severe disease, acute respiratory distress is often accompanied by a pathological immune reaction, sometimes referred to as 'cytokine storm'. One hallmark feature of the profound inflammatory state seen in patients with COVID-19 who succumb to pneumonia and hypoxia is marked elevation of serum cytokines, especially interferon gamma, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 17 (IL-17), interleukin 8 (IL-8) and interleukin 6 (IL-6). Initial experience from the outbreaks in Italy, China and the USA has anecdotally demonstrated improved outcomes for critically ill patients with COVID-19 with the administration of cytokine-modulatory therapies, especially anti-IL-6 agents. Although ongoing trials are investigating anti-IL-6 therapies, access to these therapies is a concern, especially as the numbers of cases worldwide continue to climb. An immunology-informed approach may help identify alternative agents to modulate the pathological inflammation seen in patients with COVID-19. Drawing on extensive experience administering these and other immune-modulating therapies, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer offers this perspective on potential alternatives to anti-IL-6 that may also warrant consideration for management of the systemic inflammatory response and pulmonary compromise that can be seen in patients with severe COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-000930DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7211108PMC
May 2020

Systemic short chain fatty acids limit antitumor effect of CTLA-4 blockade in hosts with cancer.

Nat Commun 2020 05 1;11(1):2168. Epub 2020 May 1.

Université Paris-Saclay, Institut Gustave Roussy, Inserm, CNRS, Analyse moléculaire, modélisation et imagerie de la maladie cancéreuse, Laboratoire d'Immunomonitoring en Oncologie, F-94805, Villejuif, France.

Gut microbiota composition influences the clinical benefit of immune checkpoints in patients with advanced cancer but mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unclear. Molecular mechanism whereby gut microbiota influences immune responses is mainly assigned to gut microbial metabolites. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are produced in large amounts in the colon through bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber. We evaluate in mice and in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4 blocking mAbs whether SCFA levels is related to clinical outcome. High blood butyrate and propionate levels are associated with resistance to CTLA-4 blockade and higher proportion of Treg cells. In mice, butyrate restrains anti-CTLA-4-induced up-regulation of CD80/CD86 on dendritic cells and ICOS on T cells, accumulation of tumor-specific T cells and memory T cells. In patients, high blood butyrate levels moderate ipilimumab-induced accumulation of memory and ICOS + CD4 + T cells and IL-2 impregnation. Altogether, these results suggest that SCFA limits anti-CTLA-4 activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16079-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7195489PMC
May 2020

The Agnostic Role of Site of Metastasis in Predicting Outcomes in Cancer Patients Treated with Immunotherapy.

Vaccines (Basel) 2020 Apr 28;8(2). Epub 2020 Apr 28.

Department of Clinical and molecular oncology, University of Rome "Sapienza", 00185 Rome, Italy.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized treatment and outcome of melanoma and many other solid malignancies including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Unfortunately, only a minority of patients have a long-term benefit, while the remaining demonstrate primary or acquired resistance. Recently, it has been demonstrated that the prevalence of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) varies based on the anatomical site of metastases. In particular, liver seems to have more immunosuppressive microenvironment while both the presence of lymph nodal disease and lung metastases seem to have the highest prevalence of PD-L1 and TILs. The aim of the present study is to investigate the possible role of site of metastases as a predictive factor for response or resistance to immunotherapy in several types of cancer. In this multicenter retrospective study, we enrolled patients with metastatic NSCLC, melanoma, RCC, urothelial, merkel carcinoma, and colon cancer who received immunotherapy from April 2015 to August 2019. Major clinicopathological parameters were retrieved and correlated with patients' survival outcomes in order to assess their prognostic value and build a useful tool to assist in the decision-making process. A total of 291 patients were included in this study. One hundred eighty-seven (64%) patients were male and 104 (36%) female. The tumor histology was squamous NSCLC in 56 (19%) patients, non-squamous NSCLC in 99 (34%) patients, melanoma in 101 (35%) patients, RCC in 28 (10%) patients, and other tumors in the remaining 7 (2%) patients. The number of metastatic sites was 1 in 103 patients (35%), 2 in 104 patients (36%) and 3 in 84 patients (29%). Out of 183 valuable patients, the entity of response was complete response (CR), partial response (PR), stable disease (SD), and progression disease (PD) in 15, 53, 31, and 79 patients, respectively. Using an univariate analysis (UVA), tumor burden ( = 0.0004), the presence of liver ( = 0.0009), bone ( = 0.0016), brain metastases ( < 0.0001), the other metastatic sites ( = 0.0375), the number of metastatic sites ( = 0.0039), the histology ( = 0.0034), the upfront use of immunotherapy ( = 0.0032), and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Perfomance status (PS) ≥ 1 ( < 0.0001) were significantly associated with poor overall survival (OS). Using a multivariate analysis (MVA) the presence of liver ( = 0.0105) and brain ( = 0.0026) metastases, the NSCLC diagnosis ( < 0.0001) and the ECOG PS ( < 0.0001) resulted as significant prognostic factors of survival. Regarding the progression free survival (PFS), using a UVA of the tumor burden ( = 0.0004), bone ( = 0.0098) and brain ( = 0.0038) metastases, the presence of other metastatic sites ( = 0.0063), the number of metastatic sites ( = 0.0007), the histology ( = 0.0007), the use of immunotherapy as first line ( = 0.0031), and the ECOG PS ≥ 1 ( ≤ 0.0001) were associated with a lower PFS rate. Using an MVA, the presence of brain ( = 0.0088) and liver metastases ( = 0.024) and the ECOG PS ( < 0.0001) resulted as predictors of poor PFS. Our study suggests that the site of metastases could have a role as prognostic and predictive factor in patients treated with immunotherapy. Indeed, regardless of the histology, the presence of liver and brain metastases was associated with a shorter PFS and OS, but these results must be confirmed in further studies. In this context, a deep characterization of microenvironment could be crucial to prepare patients through novel strategies with combination or sequential immunotherapy in order to improve treatment response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/vaccines8020203DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7349154PMC
April 2020

Anti-IL6R role in treatment of COVID-19-related ARDS.

J Transl Med 2020 04 14;18(1):165. Epub 2020 Apr 14.

Melanoma, Cancer Immunotherapy and Development Therapeutics Unit, Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione "G. Pascale", Via Mariano Semmola, 80131, Naples, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-020-02333-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7154570PMC
April 2020

Efficacy and safety of avelumab treatment in patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma: experience from a global expanded access program.

J Immunother Cancer 2020 04;8(1)

Medical Affairs, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany.

Background: Avelumab, a human anti-programmed death-ligand 1 immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody, showed favorable efficacy and safety in patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC) in the phase II JAVELIN Merkel 200 trial, leading to approval in multiple countries. We describe real-world experience with avelumab in patients with mMCC from an expanded access program.

Methods: Eligible patients had mMCC and progressive disease during or after chemotherapy or were ineligible for chemotherapy or clinical trial participation. Patients received an initial 3-month supply of avelumab (administered as 10 mg/kg intravenously every 2 weeks until progressive disease or unacceptable toxicity); resupply was allowed following complete response, partial response, stable disease, or clinical benefit per physician assessment.

Results: Between December 15, 2015, and March 4, 2019, 558 of 620 requests from 38 countries were medically approved, and 494 patients received avelumab. Among 240 evaluable patients, the objective response rate was 46.7% (complete response in 22.9%, including 3 of 16 potentially immunocompromised patients), and the disease control rate was 71.2%. The median duration of treatment in evaluable patients with response was 7.9 months (range, 1.0-41.7) overall and 5.2 months (range, 3.0-13.9) in immunocompromised patients. No new safety signals were identified. The expanded access program closed for new requests on December 31, 2018, as required after regulatory approval; benefitting patients continued to receive avelumab.

Conclusions: The avelumab expanded access program for patients with mMCC demonstrated efficacy and safety in a real-world setting, consistent with the results from JAVELIN Merkel 200, and provided a treatment for patients with limited options.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2019-000313DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7252959PMC
April 2020