Watson for Clinical Trial Matching Increases Enrollment in Breast Cancer Trials

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Alexandra Urman, MPH Clinical Research Manager Clinical Development IBM Watson Health 

Alexandra Urman

Alexandra Urman, MPH
Clinical Research Manager
Clinical Development
IBM Watson Health 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? 

Response: Cancer statistics show only 3-5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials although up to 20% may be eligible.

Dr. Tufia Hadad, a medical Oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota sought to address this issue and spearheaded a project conducted at the Rochester facility in collaboration with IBM Watson Health. The objective was to determine if the use of cognitive computing increased clinical trial enrollment and screening efficiency in the breast cancer clinic.

Watson for Clinical Trial Matching (CTM) is a cognitive system which utilizes natural language processing to derive patient and tumor attributes from unstructured text in the electronic health record that can be further used to match a patient to complex eligibility criteria in trial protocols.

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PDL1 Amplification Linked To Positive Response to Checkpoint Blockers

MedicalResearch.com Interview with

Aaron Goodman, MD Hematologist/Medical Oncologist Assistant Professor of Medicine UC San Diego Health

Dr. Goodman

Aaron Goodman, MD
Hematologist/Medical Oncologist
Assistant Professor of Medicine
UC San Diego Health 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Response rates to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade in solid tumors are reported at 10-20%.  Remarkably, response rates of 65% to 87% have been reported in patients with refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma treated with checkpoint inhibitors.

In nodular sclerosing Hodgkin lymphoma, amplification of the chromosomal region 9p24.1, which contains the genes PD-L1 (CD274)PDCD1LG2 (PD-L2)and JAK2, is directly correlated with increased expression of these proteins on Reed–Sternberg cells.

Overall, 105 of 108 (97%) biopsies from patients with newly diagnosed classical Hodgkin lymphoma have increased PD-L1 and PDCD1LG2 copy numbers.  The prevalence and utility of PD-L1amplification as a response biomarker to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade is unknown in other tumors.

We sought to determine the prevalence and utility of PD-L1 amplification as a response biomarker to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade in solid tumors.  Continue reading

Genetic Variants Help Identify Men At Highest Risk of Prostate Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Fredrick R. Schumacher, PhD, MPH. Associate Professor, Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences Case Western Reserve University Cleveland

Dr. Schumacher

Fredrick R. Schumacher, PhD, MPH.
Associate Professor, Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Our study examines the genetic underpinnings of prostate cancer initiation using technology to test variants across the genome. Our study focused on men of European ancestry and included over 80,000 men with prostate cancer and 60,000 men without disease. We discovered 63 novel genetic variants associated with prostate cancer risk, which increases our knowledge of prostate cancer genetic risk factors by more than 60%.

A genetic risk score created from the combination of 163 new and known prostate cancer risk variants revealed men with the highest genetic risk score are nearly seven times more likely to develop disease compared to the average man. Additionally, men with the lowest genetic risk score have a 85% risk reduction of developing prostate cancer compared to the average. Lastly, these new discoveries uncover several biological mechanisms involved in the initiation of prostate cancer.

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Phase III Trial of YONDELIS® (trabectedin) in Advanced Soft Tissue Sarcoma

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Axel Le Cesne, MD Institute de Cancerologie Gustave-Roussy Villejuif, France

Dr. Le Cesne

Axel Le Cesne, MD
Institute de Cancerologie Gustave-Roussy
Villejuif, France

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: With the exception of a study in translocation-related sarcomas (TRS) (Kawai, TLO 2015), trabectedin was never compared to best supportive care (BSC) in a randomized study in patients with all STS histotypes. This trial required by French Health Authorities in 2014.

The tumor control rate after 6 cycles of trabectedin is similar (30%) to previous study in French referral centers (T-DIS trial, Le Cesne, Lancet Oncol 2015) evaluating trabectedin in all subtypes of STS. As already reported, trabectedin was well tolerated with no cumulative toxicities

This study met its first endpoint as a preplanned PFS analysis showed a significant improvement in median PFS with trabectedin  over BSC in patients with pretreated ASTS including multiple histologies (HR: 0.39). A major impact of trabectedin was observed in the L-STS cohort (liposarcomas and leiomyosarcomas) with a median PFS of 1.4 months in the BSC arm and 5.13 m (HR: 0.29, p<0.0001) in the trabectedin arm. respectively). The benefit observed with trabectedin in the L-STS cohort of patients is similar to those observed in the US trial in the same population (4.2 vs 1.5m for DTIC) (Demetri, JCO 2016) and in the Japanese trial mentioned above (5.8 vs 0.9m for BSC) (Kawai, TLO 2015)

After the crossing over allowed by the protocol (trabectedin for patients progressing in the BSC arm), safety and efficacy profiles of trabectedin remains similar. We did not observe a difference in terms of OS between the two arms, probably due to the cross-over planned by the protocol.  Continue reading

What Surveillance Testing Should Be Done After Melanoma Diagnosis?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

This image depicts the gross appearance of a cutaneous pigmented lesion, which had been diagnosed as superficial spreading malignant melanoma (SSMM). Note the roughened edges of this mole, and its heterogeneous, mottled, multicolored appearance, which are all characteristics that should evoke suspicions about its classification.

This image depicts the gross appearance of a cutaneous pigmented lesion, which had been diagnosed as superficial spreading malignant melanoma (SSMM). Note the roughened edges of this mole, and its heterogeneous, mottled, multicolored appearance, which are all characteristics that should evoke suspicions about its classification.
CDC Image

Dr. Diwakar Davar, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of Hematology/Oncology
University of Pittsburgh 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The optimal surveillance strategy to detect recurrence in cutaneous melanoma remains elusive. Risk of recurrence increases with higher stage, and is especially high for patients with stage IIIC disease. Although consensus guidelines agree on surveillance imaging for high-risk (stage IIB-IIIC) MEL, there is no consensus regarding optimal frequency/modality in these patients. NCCN guidelines suggest chest radiography (CXR) at 6- to 12-month intervals for stage IA-IIA melanoma  patients; although this is controversial. There exists a great deal of practice variation in the surveillance of these patients. Continue reading

Multiple Myeloma Cases and Deaths Increase Worldwide

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Andrew J. Cowan, MD Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Division of Medical Oncology University of Washington, Seattle

Dr. Cowan

Andrew J. Cowan, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Division of Medical Oncology
University of Washington, Seattle

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

 

Response: Multiple myeloma (MM) is a plasma cell neoplasm with substantial morbidity and mortality. A comprehensive description of the global burden of multiple myeloma is needed to help direct health policy, resource allocation, research, and patient care.

Myeloma cases and deaths increased from 1990 to 2016, with middle-income countries contributing the most to this increase. Treatment availability is very limited in countries with low socioeconomic development.

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Checkpoint Inhibitors Rapidly Being Incorporated Into Routine Cancer Care

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jeremy O'Connor, MD Section of General Internal Medicine Department of Internal Medicine Postdoctoral Fellow, National Clinician Scholars Program Yale University

Dr. O’Connor

Jeremy O’Connor, MD
Section of General Internal Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellow, National Clinician Scholars Program
Yale University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  

Response: There has been a lot of enthusiasm for the use of novel therapies in cancer care, and in particular for novel anticancer agents known as immune checkpoint inhibitors. But very little is known about how quickly providers have adopted immune checkpoint inhibitors into clinical practice. Existing studies suggest, in fact, that the process of clinical adoption is slow, with conventional wisdom holding that it takes an average of 17 years for new evidence to change practice.

Our study evaluated whether the adoption of novel therapies might be much faster in certain contexts with the early use of immune checkpoint inhibitors as a notable example.

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Men Receive Triple Amount of Cancer Research Funding

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Faecal Coliforms analysis” by SuSanA Secretariat is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr. Mahiben Maruthappu

Public Health Registrar

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Gender disparities in the fields of science and technology have been documented, and  it becomes increasingly apparent at higher levels of seniority. In this analysis, we found a quantifiable difference in cancer research funding awarded to female principle investigators compared to male principle investigators (PIs).

Across all cancer research funding grants that we identified, male PIs received 3.6 times the total investment value, and 1.6 times the average award value compared with their female counterparts.  Continue reading

Chemotherapy Choice Can Be Aided By Assessing TDP Profile

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ed Liu, M.D President and CEO The Jackson Laboratory (JAX)

Dr. Ed Liu

Ed Liu, M.D
President and CEO
The Jackson Laboratory (JAX)

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: A few years ago we and others identified a complex genomic instability profile commonly found in the genomes of breast, ovarian and endometrial carcinomas, which is characterized by hundreds of isolated head-to-tail duplications of DNA segments, called tandem duplications. We refer to this configuration as the tandem duplicator phenotype, or TDP.

In this study, we perform a meta-analysis of over 2,700 cancer genomes from over 30 different tumor types and provide a detailed description of six different types of TDP, distinguished by the presence of tandem duplications of different sizes. Collectively, these profiles are found in ~50% of breast, ovarian and endometrial carcinomas as well as 10-30% of adrenocortical, esophageal, stomach and lung adeno-carcinomas. We show that distinct genetic abnormalities associate with the distinct TDPs, clearly suggesting that distinct molecular mechanisms are driving TDP formation. In particular, we provide strong evidence of a casual relationship between joint abrogation of the BRCA1 and TP53 tumor suppressor genes and the emergence of a short-span (~11 Kb) TDP profile. We also observe a significant association between hyper-activation of the CCNE1 pathway and TDP with medium-span (~230 Kb) tandem duplications, and between mutation of the CDK12 gene and medium- and large-span TDP (coexisting 230 Kb and 1.7 Kb tandem duplications).

Importantly, we find that different forms of TDP result in the perturbation of alternative sets of cancer genes, with short-span TDP profiles leading to the loss of tumor suppressor genes via double transections, and larger-span TDP profiles resulting in the duplication (i.e. copy number gain) of oncogenes and gene regulatory elements, such as super-enhancers and disease-associated SNPs.  Continue reading

Rhabdomyosarcoma Can Develop From Hijacked Blood Vessel Cells

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Mark E. Hatley, M.D., Ph.D. Assistant Member Molecular Oncology Division, Department of Oncology St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Memphis, TN 38105

Dr. Hatley

Mark E. Hatley, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Member
Molecular Oncology Division, Department of Oncology
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Memphis, TN 38105

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue sarcoma occurring in children. Tumors appear histologically and genetically as undifferentiated skeletal muscle and are thus thought to solely originate from early skeletal muscle cells. However, tumors occur throughout the body, including sites devoid of skeletal muscle. In addition, tumor location is a key feature of staging and 40% of patients develop RMS in the head and neck. Interestingly, head and neck muscle development is distinct from the development of trunk and limb muscle. Previously we described a model of rhabdomyosarcoma which occurred specifically in the head and neck and originated from non-muscle cells. In this study we investigated how normal development programs are hijacked to drive rhabdomyosarcoma location.

We demonstrated that RMS can originate from immature blood vessel cells that lie in between muscle fibers specifically in the head and neck. During development, these cells are hijacked, and become reprogrammed into rhabdomyosarcoma rather than mature endothelial cells. These RMS cells express factors important in head and neck muscle development. Our findings highlight that cell of origin contributes to RMS location and may explain why a high proportion of RMS occurs in the head and neck.  Continue reading

Public Dissemination of Cancer Study Findings Delayed About 10 Months

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lindor Qunaj BSc MD’19
Medical student, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Brown Center for Biomedical Informatics
Providence, Rhode Island

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our study was motivated by growing concerns that incomplete or delayed release of clinical trial data may put patients at risk of harm or suboptimal treatment and slow the pace of biomedical innovation. Especially in a field as rapidly evolving as oncology, complete and timely dissemination of clinical trial results is critical to the advancement of both patient care and scientific discovery.

In an analysis of press releases from eight large pharmaceutical companies, we found that the median delay from presumed availability of Phase 3 trial data to peer-reviewed publication or public posting of results was 300 days. Studies reporting positive findings were published more rapidly than those with negative results.

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Liquid Biopsies Sent To Different Labs May Yield Different Results

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Gonzalo Torga, MD
Urology Department
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Baltimore, MD 21287

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Liquid biopsy is a new and noninvasive alternative to tumor tissue sequencing, and it is intended to specifically detect and sequence tumor DNA circulating in patients’ blood. The results are used to help guide oncologists to tailor the best treatment for patients at each point of their disease. Our research was initially aimed at finding the best commercial lab to test samples from metastatic prostate cancer patients. We wanted to make the best choice for our patients, so we started submitting the samples to both places at the same time to compare results. However, we found significant disparities in the results from identical patient samples submitted to two different commercial liquid biopsy providers, and we believed it would be important to share them with the oncology community.

The two liquid biopsy panels compared were the Guardant360, from Guardant Health, Inc., which sequenced at least part of the coding sequences of 73 genes; and the PlasmaSELECT panel from Personal Genome Diagnostics, which sequenced coding segments of 64 genes.  Both laboratories were licensed by Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), and report having high sensitivity (in this case, the ability to correctly identify mutations when they occur) and high specificity (the ability to correctly report as negative when those mutations are not present). The two companies differ in which genes, and regions within each gene, are covered. Just 25 of the 40 patients in the study had at least one genetic mutation reported within the overlapping genetic sequences covered by both companies.

Even when the companies were analyzing DNA from the same blood drawn, their results rarely matched each other. When comparing results within the overlapping genetic sequences, the results from both companies completely matched for all the mutations reported in only 7.5 percent (3 of 40 patients) of cases. In 15 percent of the patients (6 of 40), both companies’ results matched for at least one of the reported mutations. In 40 percent (16 of 40) of the patients, no mutations reported that were potentially covered by both panels were detected by both companies.

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Most Laboratory Testing For Cancer-Causing Gene Mutations Found Reliable

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Annette S. Kim, MD, PhD Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School Brigham & Women's Hospital Boston MA 02115

Dr. Kim

Annette S. Kim, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Boston MA 02115 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The recent debate on laboratory developed tests (LDTs) and FDA-approved companion diagnostics (FDA-CDs) has centered upon both the regulatory and performance aspects of LDTs and we, at the College of American Pathologists (CAP), had the data through our proficiency testing (PT) programs to address the latter point, performance that we wanted to share with the community.  We analyzed almost 7000 PT responses on three molecular oncology tests, those for BRAF, EGFR, and KRAS mutations, and found that both LDTs and FDA-CDs demonstrated excellent performance, with both test types exceeding 97% accuracy overall.

The second key finding of the study was that more than 60% of all laboratories in our study that were using an FDA-CD kit report using it with modifications from the FDA-approved protocol.  These modifications in fact render these test LDTs.  These modifications appear to be driven by the exigencies of real day-to-day clinical practice that requires adapting the assays to meet the needs of a variety of clinical situations that may not be accommodated by the FDA-approved protocol.  These modifications include, for example, the testing of other tumor types that may carry targetable variants, different types of input specimen preparations available in pathology such as cytology smears or other fresh specimens rather than paraffin blocks, and availability of different methods of DNA quantification that those mandated by the FDA approval based upon pre-existing technologies in the laboratories.  In the clinical laboratory, we are always acutely aware that there is a patient awaiting this result.

Therefore, we validate our assays to ensure that we can provide reliable and accurate results from our laboratory under as many varied clinical situations as possible. These data support that practice.

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Small Cell Lung Cancers Form Chemotherapy-Resistant Circulating Tumor Spheres

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Prof. Gerhard Hamilton Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical University of Vienna 

Prof. Hamilton

Prof. Gerhard Hamilton
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Medical University of Vienna

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a highly aggressive tumor (15 % of all lung cancers) mainly of patients with high tobacco consumption which shows an extremely poor survival (< 5% 2-year survival rate). Unfortunately the
low survival rates of advanced SCLC cases has not improved significantly during the last decades, with platinum drugs/etoposide and topotecan employed for first- and second-line chemotherapy, respectively. All kinds of new chemotherapeutics, targeted drugs and immunotherapies either failed or resulted in prolongation of survival of several months at best. SCLC responds well to first-line therapy but relapses within a short time as chemoradioresistant tumor. The failure of hundreds of registered studies seem to be linked to the lack of knowledge of the mechanism of resistance of SCLCs and proper ways to reverse the refractoriness.

Small cell lung cancer is distinguished by excessive numbers of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in advanced stages. CTCs contain the founder of metastasis and seem to constitute a highly chemoresistant cell population. Thus, we ware able to establish a panel of permanent CTC lines in vitro for the first time (8 SCLC lines so far from blood samples). Although CTCs were considered to be chemoresistant we detected that they are chemosensitive in vitro in form of single cell suspensions. However, all CTC lines developed spontaneously into large multicellular aggregates, termed tumorospheres, which grow up to 1-2 mm in size and exhibit high chemoradioresistance due to limited drug perfusion as well as content of quiescent and hypoxic cells. Resistance to irradiation seems to be caused by lack of oxygen, such limiting the generation of oxygen radicals. High resistance mediated by the occurrence of tumorospheres easily explains the failure of a large number of drugs – if one is not able to achieve a sufficient concentration of a drug in cancer cells and the cells are quiescent, the respective compounds will not be able to destroy the target cells, regardless of their chemical nature.

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Targeting CD44s May Make Glioblastoma More Sensitive To Clinical Treatment

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Chonghui Cheng, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Molecular & Human Genetics Lester & Sue Smith Breast Center Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX77030

Dr. Cheng

Chonghui Cheng, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Molecular & Human Genetics
Lester & Sue Smith Breast Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX77030

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Understanding the mechanisms that give cancer cells the ability to survive and grow opens the possibility of developing improved treatments to control or cure disease. In the case of glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest type of brain cancer, abnormal EGFR signaling is frequently observed.

Treatment with the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib attempts to kill cancer cells. However, the clinical benefit of treatment with this and other EGFR inhibitors has been limited by the development of drug resistance.

Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine discovered that the molecule CD44s seems to give cancer cells a survival advantage. Eliminating this advantage by reducing the amount of CD44s resulted in cancer cells being more sensitive to the deadly effects of the drug erlotinib.

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