Author Interviews, JAMA, Neurology / 13.01.2018 Interview with: Fredrik Piehl MD PhD, prof. of Neurology Neuroimmunology Unit. Dept Clinical Neuroscience Neurology Dept. Karolinska University Hospital (Solna) Stockholm What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In recent years we have seen a drastic increase in treatment options for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). However, it is difficult to deduce long term performance of different drugs based only on data from randomized controlled trials, since such trials are performed in selected patients without major co-morbidities and perhaps also enriched for those with a milder disease course. In addition, most trials only last for two years and lack relevant comparators. This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to predict if a drug will work or not for a given patient, in turn leading to frequent treatment switches but also different treatment practices across countries, regions or even between centers. This is also the case in Sweden, but with the additional aspect that some regions have opted to treat most newly diagnosed RRMS patients with rituximab (Rituxan/Mabthera), a drug not formally approved for RRMS, but with extensive safety data from other indications. (more…)
Allergies, Author Interviews / 29.12.2017 Interview with: Sandra Andorf PhD Kim and Ping Li Director of Computational Biology Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University Instructor, Nadeau Lab Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Food allergies are on the rise in the world. Approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies, which includes around 6 million children. Of people with food allergies, 30-40% are allergic to more than one food and therefore these people have a greater risk for an accidental ingestion resulting in an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. Currently there is no FDA approved treatment for food allergies but oral immunotherapy, a treatment in which the patient eats small but slowly increasing doses of their allergen until they can tolerate a specified dose, was shown in research settings to be safe in children and adults for up to 5 foods in parallel. In this trial, we studied the efficacy and safety of Omalizmuab (an anti-IgE drug) treatment with oral immunotherapy in multifood allergic participants versus placebo with oral immunotherapy for a total of 9 months. We found that 83% of the participants who received Omalizumab could tolerate at least 2 g of at least two different food allergens at the end of the trial compared to 33% of those who received placebo. The participants that received Omalizumab were also desensitized faster, meaning they were on average able to eat 2 g of each of their allergic foods earlier in the treatment. Furthermore, we could show that the use of Omalizumab and the fast updosing is safe. (more…)
Author Interviews, Chemotherapy, JAMA, Ovarian Cancer / 26.12.2017 Interview with: Debra Richardson, MD, FACOG, FACS Associate Professor, Section of Gynecologic Oncology, Oklahoma TSET Phase I Program Stephensen Cancer Center The University of Oklahoma What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths. Pazopanib is an oral multitarget tyrosine kinase inhibitor of VEGF receptors 1, 2, and 3; platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptors α and β and c-KIT. Weekly paclitaxel is an active agent for recurrent ovarian cancer. This was a national, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled phase 2b trial of weekly paclitaxel with or without pazopanib for the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer. The primary objective was to estimate the progression-free survival (PFS) hazard ratio (HR) of the combination of weekly paclitaxel (80mg/m2 D1, 8, 15 every 28 days) and pazopanib (800mg PO daily) compared with weekly paclitaxel and placebo in women with persistent or recurrent ovarian cancer. 106 women were enrolled. There was no difference in median PFS, overall survival (OS), or proportion responding. Severe hypertension was more common on the pazopanib plus paclitaxel arm. More patients discontinued treatment on the paclitaxel arm for disease progression, and more on the pazopanib plus paclitaxel arm for adverse events. Patients with VEGFA CC genotype may be more resistant to weekly paclitaxel than those with the AC or AA genotype. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Hematology, NEJM / 15.12.2017 Interview with: DrMeletios A. Dimopoulos MD Professor and Chairman Department of Clinical Therapeutics University Athens School of Medicine Athens, Greece What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Updated data from the Phase 3 POLLUX trials showed DARZALEX, in combination with lenalidomide and dexamethasone, reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 56 percent, compared to lenalidomide and dexamethasone alone (Hazard Ratio [HR]=0.44; 95 percent CI [0.34-0.55], p<0.0001). After a median follow-up of 32.9 months, the median progression-free survival (PFS) in the DARZALEX arm has not been reached, compared with a median PFS of 17.5 months for patients who received lenalidomide and dexamethasone alone. DARZALEX in combination with lenalidomide and dexamethasone also significantly increased the overall response rate (ORR) compared to lenalidomide and dexamethasone alone (93 percent vs. 76 percent, p<0.0001), including rates of complete response (CR) or better (55 percent vs. 23 percent, p<0.0001). DARZALEX also showed significantly higher (>3-fold) MRD-negative rates compared to lenalidomide and dexamethasone alone. These data were featured as an oral presentation (Abstract #739) at the 59th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting in early December. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 06.12.2017 Interview with: Dr. Cheng Liu PhD President and Chief Executive Officer of Eureka Therapeutics. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  
    • Eureka Therapeutics, Inc. is a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on improving the safety profile of T cell therapies and developing novel T cell therapies for the treatment of solid tumors.
    • ET190L1-ARTEMISTM utilizes Eureka’s proprietary ARTEMISTM T cell receptor platform and proprietary human anti- CD19 binder to target CD19-positive malignancies. In preclinical studies, ET190L1-ARTEMISTM matched the cancer killing potency of current CAR-T therapies but with a dramatic reduction in the levels of inflammatory cytokines released, a main cause of cytokine release syndrome. In addition, these studies have shown that ET190L1-ARTEMISTM T cells are less exhausted and more naive and therefore, expected to have improved persistence in vivo. If confirmed in the clinic, this could result in a longer term therapeutic benefit to patients with an improved safety profile.
    • Eureka is also focused on developing the next evolution of T cell therapies against solid tumors which represent 90% of all cancers. While CAR-T therapies have been successful with liquid tumors such as leukemia and lymphoma, they have not been successful in solid tumors because of a lack of specific cell surface antigens. Eureka has pioneered the use of TCR mimic antibodies to target intracellular antigens in solid tumors that were once considered undruggable. Using its proprietary human E-ALPHA® phage display library, Eureka has discovered highly-specific, high affinity TCR mimic antibodies that can target intracellular antigens in solid tumors when processed into peptides and presented onto the cell surface by the MHCI complex. Pre-clinical studies have shown that when these TCR mimic antibodies were engineered onto the ARTEMISTM or CAR-T cell receptor platform against hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells, the T cells launched a potent anti-tumor response.
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Pharmaceutical Companies / 20.11.2017 Interview with: Dr. Koustubh Ranade, PhD Vice President of Research & Development Translational Medicine MedImmune What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In a healthy person, abnormal cells including cancer cells are typically detected and destroyed by the immune system in response to danger signals activated by the abnormal cells. However, some solid tumors avoid triggering danger signals, and thus the immune system cannot recognize and destroy cancer cells, permitting tumor growth. To help activate the patient’s immune system to fight these “hidden” cancer cells, MedImmune scientists have developed MEDI9197, a TLR 7/8 agonist, to trigger the needed danger signals. Our latest data from the Phase 1 study of MEDI9197 demonstrated that through intratumor injection, the therapy binds to TLR7 and TLR8 receptors and activates dendritic cells, which call in other immune cells to fight the tumor. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, J&J-Janssen, Pharmaceutical Companies, Rheumatology / 13.11.2017 Interview with: Atul A. Deodhar, MD, MRCP, FACP, FACR Professor of Medicine Division of Arthritis & Rheumatic Diseases Medical Director, Rheumatology Clinics Medical Director, Immunology Infusion Center Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The Phase 2, randomized, double-blind, placebo–controlled, multicenter trial was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of guselkumab (Tremfya®) compared with placebo in adults with active psoriatic arthritis, despite having received treatment with standard-of-care therapies, including anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha agents. In an observed analysis presented at ACR 2017, more than 70 percent of patients receiving guselkumab achieved at least a 20 percent improvement in signs and symptoms of disease (ACR 20) at week 56.  Findings also showed that improvements in tender and swollen joints, skin clearance, pain and physical function, and patient-reported quality of life outcomes reported at week 24, were maintained through week 56 in patients receiving guselkumab maintenance therapy (subcutaneous injections every eight weeks).  (more…)
Author Interviews, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pharmacology, Pulmonary Disease / 02.10.2017 Interview with: Professor Carlo Vancheri Professor of Respiratory Medicine, University of Catania, Italy and Director of the Regional Referral Centre for Rare Lung Diseases and the Laboratory of Experimental Respiratory Medicine. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: The aim of Boehringer Ingelheim’s INJOURNEY trial was to investigate the safety profile of Ofev (nintedanib) in combination with pirfenidone in treating patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Nintedanib and pirfenidone, the only two FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of IPF, are able to slow down the progression of the disease, reducing the forced vital capacity (FVC) decline of about 50%, but this is not a cure. The target for the future is to have even more effective treatments. In the meanwhile, it is necessary to optimize the use of the available drugs. The medical treatment of other pulmonary diseases such as COPD, asthma or pulmonary hypertension is already based on different combinations of drugs. This 12-week, open-label, randomized study was designed to evaluate the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of nintedanib with add-on pirfenidone, compared with nintedanib alone in patients with IPF. Change in FVC, the established efficacy endpoint in IPF trials, was evaluated as an exploratory endpoint. The primary endpoint of the INJOURNEY trial was the percentage of patients with on-treatment gastrointestinal adverse events from baseline to week 12 of randomized treatment, and the results showed that the combination of nintedanib and add-on pirfenidone resulted in a manageable safety and tolerability profile, similar to the profile of each drug individually in the majority of patients. Results also indicated there may be a slower decline in FVC in patients treated with pirfenidone along with nintedanib compared with nintedanib alone, suggesting a potential benefit of the combination. However, further research will be necessary to fully evaluate the efficacy of the combination. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 14.09.2017 Interview with: Ezra Cohen, MD Associate Director, Moores Cancer Center Professor of Medicine Moores Cancer Center UC San Diego Health - La Jolla Moores Cancer Center La Jolla, CA  92093 What is the background for this study? Response: We have known for a couple of years that anti-PD1 therapy, and specifically pembrolizumab, is active in  head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The KN40 trial now tested pembrolizuamb against standard of care in patients whose cancers progressed on platinum containing regimens. What are the main findings? Response: The main findings really supported what we know about pembrolizumab in this disease - it is active and effective with a favorable side effect profile. Pembrolizumab reduced the risk of death by 19% and was associated with a 14% response rate. The effect was even greater in tumors that expressed PDL1 and, in the highest expressing group, the benefit in reduction of risk of death was 46% with a 27% response rate. (more…)
Author Interviews, Melanoma, NEJM / 14.09.2017 Interview with: Dr Alexander Menzies BSc(Med) MBBS (Hons) FRACP PhD Medical Oncologist and Senior Research Fellow at Melanoma Institute Australia The University of Sydney and Royal North Shore and Mater Hospital What is the background for this study? Response: For early-stage melanoma, surgical resection is the standard treatment and is associated with an excellent long-term prognosis. However until now, Stage III melanoma patients (where the disease has spread to the lymph nodes) who have had their tumours surgically removed have simply had to play the waiting game to see if their melanoma would metastasise, with many ultimately dying of the disease. Checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies and drugs that target the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway have improved the outcome of patients with metastatic melanoma, but their role as adjuvant therapy is still being actively investigated. Prior Phase III trials (COMBI-D and COMBI-V) have shown improved overall survival in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with BRAF V600E or V600K mutations. At Melanoma Institute Australia, we were keen to see if this improvement would be seen in the adjuvant setting also. This clinical trial was the first in the world to give targeted therapy to melanoma patients at an earlier stage of the disease to prevent spread and recurrence. (more…)
Author Interviews, Melanoma, NYU / 13.09.2017 Interview with: Jeffrey Weber, M.D., Ph.D Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center New York University Langone Medical Center New York, NY 10016 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There is a major unmet need for well tolerated and effective adjuvant therapy for high risk melanoma, that is, melanoma that has been removed but the patients have a 50%+ risk of relapse over 5 years, and a 50%+ risk of death over 10 years from melanoma. Since nivolumab is an active and well tolerated drug in metastatic disease, it seemed reasonable to test it after surgery to prevent recurrence. Since ipilimumab is approved for resected stage III melanoma in the US as adjuvant therapy, that was the control arm for comparison, and that is an active control, which prolongs relapse free and overall survival comared to placebo. (more…)
Author Interviews / 20.08.2017 Interview with: Jianping Huang, MD, PhD Associate Professor Director of Clinical Laboratory Operations UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program Department of Neurosurgery, University of Florida What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Identification and validation of molecules that are involved in tumor progression and reduced survival in glioma patients is the starting point for developing active, safe and effective therapy. Unfortunately, very few target molecules have been identified for the deadly disease of glioma up until recently. Our studies have identified that the molecule CD70 is ectopically expressed on gliomas and involved in promoting glioma progression. Our research shows that CD70 leads to a “double jeopardy” scenario in Glioblastoma (GBM) patients by promoting tumor aggressiveness and inhibiting our immune response to cancer. These results provide a strong scientific rationale to target CD70 using state-of-the-art therapeutic approaches, such as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Immunotherapy, JAMA, Lung Cancer / 14.07.2017 Interview with: Dr. Noelia Rivera MD Dermatologist Hospital Universitari Germans Trias i Pujol, Badalona Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona What is the background for this study? Response: In the last few years some new therapies targeting immune checkpoints have been developed. The programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) are immune checkpoints that prevent the immune system to act against own tissues. By blocking these mediators it is possible to prevent tumors to escape from the immune system. About half of the patients receiving these therapies will develop mild to moderate cutaneous adverse events. In the pre-authorization studies for malignant melanoma these include rash, vitiligo, and pruritus. "Rash" has commonly been reported as an adverse event in many oncologic trials evaluating the drugs, without providing further information about the clinical or histological details. Lately, lichenoid eruptions associated to these therapies have been reported and it suggests that an important percentage of these reactions present lichenoid histological features. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 24.06.2017 Interview with: Dr. Ajai Chari, MD Associate Professor of Medicine Multiple Myeloma Program and Associate Director of Clinical Research Mount Sinai Hospital, New York What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain multiple myeloma (How common is it, whom does it chiefly affect, etc.)? Response: Multiple myeloma is a rare form of blood cancer that occurs when plasma cells grow uncontrollably in the bone marrow. It is estimated that approximately 30,280 people will be diagnosed and 12,590 will die from the disease in the United States in 2017. While some patients with multiple myeloma have no symptoms at all, symptoms can include bone fracture or pain, low red blood counts, fatigue, calcium elevation, kidney problems or infections. Despite tremendous progress, most patients with multiple myeloma continually relapse or become resistant to available therapies, such as proteasome inhibitors (PIs) and immunomodulatory agents. Therefore, these patients continue to need new options. The MMY1001 (EQUULEUS) study is a Phase 1b, open-label study assessing daratumumab in combination with multiple backbone regimens for multiple myeloma. In one arm of the study, supporting the recent approval of DARZALEX (daratumumab), the treatment was assessed in combination with pomalidomide and dexamethasone in patients with multiple myeloma who had received a prior PI and an immunomodulatory agent. Data from the study showed that the addition of daratumumab resulted in an overall response rate (ORR) of 59.2 percent (95 percent CI: 49.1 percent, 68.8 percent), with very good partial response (VGPR) achieved in 28.2 percent of patients. Complete response (CR) was achieved in 5.8 percent of patients and stringent CR (sCR) was achieved in 7.8 percent of patients. (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Merck, NYU / 10.06.2017 Interview with: Sylvia Adams, MD Associate Professor of Medicine Breast Cancer and Cancer Immunotherapy Programs NYU Langone Medical Center Cancer Institute/Clinical Cancer Center New York, NY 10016 What is the background for the Keynote-086 trial ? What are the main findings? Response: This study is the largest immunotherapy study to date presented in metastatic triple negative breast cancer. This phase 2 trial studied the efficacy and safety of pembrolizumab (P) as single agent in a very aggressive disease and had two cohorts, a cohort of previously untreated patients (Cohort B) and a cohort with patients who had received prior chemotherapy lines in the metastatic setting (Cohort A). The study showed that single agent pembrolizumab can elicit durable responses in a subset of patients. This was found regardless of tumoral PD-L1 expression but appeared to be much more frequent in women without prior chemotherapy treatments in the metastatic setting. Survival is especially promising for patients responding to therapy. (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 05.06.2017 Interview with: Dr. Kelly Garneski Paulson, MD, PHD Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle, WA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive skin cancer with increasing impact. Currently, there are more than 2000 new cases of MCC diagnosed each year in the US. Over one third of patients will develop metastatic disease. Most cases of Merkel cell carcinoma are caused by a virus (Merkel cell polyomavirus). In these cancers, the viral oncoproteins (cancer causing proteins) are highly expressed (exclusively on tumor tissue), immunogenic and are necessary for cancer growth.  These oncoproteins are thus ideal targets for cancer immunotherapy, making MCC a great cancer in which to study and develop immunotherapy.  Indeed, immunotherapies are effective in MCC, with observed response to checkpoint inhibitor mono therapy on the order of 35-55%, although complete responses remain rare. In our first trial, we treated four patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma with endogenous T cell therapy (ex vivo expanded polyclonal T cells recognizing Merkel cell polyomavirus). One patient developed a complete response, but three patients rapidly progressed. Interestingly, we observed that the patient with the complete response had low levels of PD-1 expression on the virus specific transferred T cells. We thus hypothesized adding adding an immune checkpoint inhibitor (avelumab, anti-PD-L1) to the transferred T cells would be acceptably safe and potentially improve clinical effectiveness. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, JAMA, Melanoma / 10.05.2017 Interview with: Yasuhiro Nakamura, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Skin Oncology/Dermatology Comprehensive Cancer Center Saitama Medical University International Medical Center Hidaka, Saitama What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Regressing nevi, which are frequently associated with halo phenomenon, occur in approximately 1% of the general population. In patients with melanoma, spontaneous or treatment-related depigmentation of the skin (vitiligo) is sometimes observed. Although humoral and cellular immune responses may play a crucial role in their development, immune reactions to benign melanocytic nevi (BMN) without a halo are extremely rare in both the general population and in patients with melanoma. This publication reports a rare case with multiple metastatic melanomas who showed a remarkable clinical response to nivolumab with a simultaneous prominent immune reaction to multiple BMN without halo phenomenon. This rare phenomenon may be associated with dramatic efficacy of nivolumab in melanoma patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gastrointestinal Disease, Immunotherapy, NEJM, UCSD / 04.05.2017 Interview with: William J. Sandborn, MD Professor of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Surgery Chief, Division of Gastroenterology Vice Chair for Clinical Operations, Department of Medicine Director, UCSD IBD Center University of California San Diego and UC San Diego Health System What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There is still a substantial unmet need for new treatments for patients with ulcerative colitis. A previous Phase II study had suggested that tofacitinib might be effective for short term therapy of ulcerative colitis. The patients in that study for the most part had not failed anti-TNF therapy. Now we report the findings from 3 large Phase III trials, two short term trials and one long term trial, demonstrating that tofacitinib 10 mg twice daily is effective for short term therapy, and that both 5 mg and 10 mg twice daily is effective for long term therapy. We also demonstrated that tofacitinib is effective both in patients who have not failed anti-TNF therapy and patients who have failed anti-TNF therapy. The study demonstrated induction of clinical remission, clinical response and mucosal healing (flexible sigmoidoscopy improvement) over the short term, and maintenance of clinical remission, clinical response, and mucosal healing over the long term. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cancer Research, Immunotherapy, Neurology, Radiology / 01.05.2017 Interview with: Ben Larimer, PhD research fellow in lab of Umar Mahmood, MD, PhD Massachusetts General Hospital Professor, Radiology, Harvard Medical School What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized cancer treatment, unfortunately they only work in a minority of patients. This means that most people who are put on a checkpoint inhibitor will not benefit but still have the increased risk of side effects. They also lose time they could have spent on other therapies. The ability to differentiate early in the course of treatment patients who are likely to benefit from immunotherapy from those who will not greatly improves individual patient care and helps accelerate the development of new therapies. The main purpose of our study was to find a way to separate immunotherapy responders from non-responders at the earliest time point possible, and develop an imaging probe that would allow us to distinguish this non-invasively. Granzyme B is a protein that immune cells use to actually kill their target. They keep it locked up in special compartments until they get the right signal to kill, after which they release it along with another protein called perforin that allows it to go inside of tumor cells and kill them. We designed a probe that only binds to granzyme B after it is released from immune cells, so that we could directly measure immune cell killing. We then attached it to a radioactive atom that quickly decays, so we could use PET scanning to noninvasively image the entire body to see where immune cells were actively releasing tumor-killing granzyme B. We took genetically identical mice and gave them identical cancer and then treated every mouse with checkpoint inhibitors, which we knew would result in roughly half of the mice responding, but we wouldn’t know which ones until their tumors began to shrink. A little over a week after giving therapy to the mice, and before any of the tumors started to shrink, we injected our imaging probe and performed PET scans. When we looked at the mice by PET imaging, they fell into two groups. One group had high PET uptake, meaning high levels of granzyme B in the tumors, the other group had low levels of PET signal in the tumors. When we then followed out the two groups, all of the mice with high granzyme B PET uptake ended up responding to the therapy and their tumors subsequently disappeared, whereas those with low uptake had their tumors continue to grow. We were very excited about this and so we expanded our collaboration with co-authors Keith Flaherty and Genevieve Boland to get patient samples from patients who were on checkpoint inhibitor therapy to see if the same pattern held true in humans. When we looked at the human melanoma tumor samples we saw the same pattern, high secreted granzyme levels in responders and much lower levels in non-responders. (more…)
Author Interviews, Melanoma / 31.03.2017 Interview with: Dr Paolo A Ascierto MD Melanoma Cancer Immunotherapy and Innovative Therapy Unit Istituto Nazionale Tumori Fondazione Naples Italy What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although IPI was approved for the treatment of melanoma at dosage of 3 mg/kg, a dose-ranging phase 2 trial suggested longer overall survival (OS) but more treatment-related adverse events with ipilimumab 10 mg/kg vs 3 mg/kg. However, the study MDX010-020 (randomized phase III study which compared ipilimumab 3 mg/kg + gp100 vaccination and ipilimumab 3mg/kg + placebo vs gp100 vaccination + placebo) performed as second line treatment of advanced melanoma patients, showed an OS curve similar to that of the study CA184-169 (randomized phase III study which compared dacarbazine + ipilimumab 10 mg/kg to dacarbazine + placebo) as first line treatment of metastatic melanoma. For this reason FDA approved ipilimumab at dosage of 3 mg/kg as first and second line treatment for advanced melanoma, but asked for a randomized phase III study of comparison of ipilimumab at the different dosage in order to explore if there was a difference in the outcome of patients with different dosages. (more…)
Author Interviews, Boehringer Ingelheim, Dermatology, Eli Lilly, Immunotherapy, J&J-Janssen, Merck / 30.03.2017 Eric Hughes Global Development Franchise Head Immunology & Dermatology Novartis What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Psoriasis is a chronic immune-mediated inflammatory disease that negatively impacts patients’ quality of life (QOL); therefore QOL outcomes are increasingly recognized as an important measure of efficacy in psoriasis, complementing traditional measures of severity such as the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI). Secukinumab, a fully human monoclonal antibody that selectively neutralizes interleukin-17A (IL-17A), exhibits significant efficacy in the treatment of moderate-to-severe psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis, demonstrating a rapid onset of action and a favorable safety profile. Biologic therapies for psoriasis have previously been associated with a fall-off in efficacy over time; accordingly, extended follow-up is required to adequately evaluate novel therapeutic strategies like IL-17A inhibition. Recently, results from the extension of the SCULPTURE secukinumab trial showed that high responses initially achieved with secukinumab at year 1 in the SCULPTURE study were sustained over time up to 3 years with no new or unexpected safety concerns. In this analysis, we examined whether the sustained efficacy observed in SCULPTURE up to 3 years was translated into sustained effect of secukinumab on patient’s QOL measured by the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) questionnaire. SCULPTURE, a multi-center extension study, was conducted with subjects who completed 52 weeks of treatment. Subjects were randomized into two maintenance dosing regimens; a fixed-interval schedule of secukinumab 300 mg every 4 weeks (Fixed interval dosing regimen (FI) cohort), and secukinumab retreatment-as-needed (Retreatment as needed (RAN) cohort), in which subjects received placebo until start of relapse, at which time secukinumab 300 mg every 4 weeks was re-initiated. The analysis using as-observed data showed that at Year 3, improvements in the total score on DLQI was well sustained in both FI and RAN cohorts. Approximately two-thirds of the subjects in the FI cohort reported no impact of skin disease on QOL (corresponding to a score of 0 or 1 on DLQI). The proportion of patients in the RAN cohort reporting no impact of the disease on their QOL was well sustained through 3 years but remained consistently lower than those observed in the FI cohort. The results for each subscale of the DLQI questionnaire were consistent with those with DLQI total score i.e. showing high and sustained proportions of patients reporting no impact of the disease on different domains of health-related QOL in the two secukinumab cohorts with greater effect in the FI cohort compared to the RAN cohort. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Immunotherapy / 29.03.2017 Interview with: Emma Guttman, MD, PhD Professor, Dermatology, Medicine and Clinical Immunology Vice Chair of Research in the Dermatology Department Director of the center for Excellence Eczema in the Occupational/Contact Dermatitis clinic Director of the Laboratory of Inflammatory Skin Diseases Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center New York Would you briefly explain what is meant by atopic dermatitis? How many people are affected by this disorder? Response: Atopic dermatitis or eczema as most people know it is an itchy red scaly skin disorder characterized by a very severe itch, that disrupts daily activities, and sleep and severely impairs the quality of life of patients. In the US 30 million people are affected by it, and 1/3 of these we expect to be moderate to severe. What is the background for Dupilumab therapy? How does it differ from emollients, steroids or topical immunomodulator treatments for eczema ie Protopic? Response: The background is that we currently do not have good treatments for long term use for our moderate to severe patients. The only approved drug by the FDA for atopic dermatitis in the US is oral prednisone, that has many long term side effects and causes disease rebound upon discontinuation. Other treatments with many side effects are broad immune suppressants--Cyclopsorin A, Mycophenolate mofetyl and phototherapy that is not feasible for most patients. Thus there is a large unmet need for safer and better treatments for moderate to severe atopic dermatitis patients. Dupilumab is different since it only targets one immune axis--Th2 axis, providing a safer alternative, with high efficacy, that is equal or even better than cyclosporin A, that is the current gold standard immune suppressant, and harbors many side effects including permanent effects on the kidneys after long term use. Topical treatments, while useful for mild patients, are often not adequate or sufficient to control moderate to severe patients that usually have more than 10% body surface area involved and need a systemic treatment. (more…)
Author Interviews, Boehringer Ingelheim, Dermatology, Immunotherapy / 29.03.2017 Interview with: Eric Hughes, Global Head of Development, Immunology & Dermatology Novartis Pharma AG Basel, Switzerland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: It is well established that psoriasis negatively affects quality of life and work productivity. However, how the treatments affect psoriasis severity (based on skin clearance, itch, pain and scaling symptoms), health-related quality of life (HRQOL), work productivity, and daily activity directly or indirectly (via other factors) are still largely unknown. Secukinumab, a fully human monoclonal antibody that selectively neutralizes interleukin-17A (IL-17A), exhibits significant efficacy in the treatment of moderate-to-severe psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis, demonstrating a rapid onset of action and a favorable safety profile. In CLEAR, a Phase 3b head-to-head study versus ustekinumab, secukinumab demonstrated sustained superior efficacy in clearing skin through Week 52, greater improvement in symptoms and HRQOL, greater relief of work and activity limitations, and a comparable safety profile. In this sub-analysis of the CLEAR study, Novartis was interested in examining the relationships among multiple variables that are thought to be important to patients with psoriasis. The direct and indirect (i.e. mediated) effects of treatment (secukinumab or ustekinumab) on psoriasis severity and patients’ HRQOL, work productivity, and daily activity were examined. The evaluation was conducted using structural equation modeling (or path analysis) and compared these relationships for secukinumab versus ustekinumab at 16 and 52 weeks. Structural equation modeling or path analysis is a statistical method that models the direct and indirect relationship between multiple patient-relevant outcomes simultaneously. Goodness-of-fit statistics for all models were excellent confirming the robustness of the results. Results at Week 16 and at Week 52 for different Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) response categories (e.g. PASI 75, PASI 90, PASI 100) indicated that psoriasis treatment indirectly affected HRQOL and work productivity and daily activity, measured with the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) and the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI) questionnaires, respectively. Actually, greater effect of secukinumab over ustekinumab on DLQI was mediated by greater improvement of secukinumab in PASI response as well as by greater improvement in psoriasis-related symptoms (itch, pain and scaling). Greater effect of secukinumab over ustekinumab on work productivity and daily activity was mediated by greater improvement of secukinumab in psoriasis-related symptoms. (more…)
Author Interviews / 11.03.2017 Interview with: Prof. Dr. med. Kristian Reich Dermatologie, Allergologie Psoriasis- und Neurodermitis-Trainer Hamburg What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The IXORA-S study compared the efficacy and safety of Taltz® (ixekizumab) and Stelara®* (ustekinumab) for the treatment of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis at 24 weeks. In this study, patients were randomized to receive either Stelara (45 mg or 90 mg weight-based dosing per label) or Taltz (80 mg every two weeks followed by 80 mg every four weeks), following an initial starting dose of 160 mg. At 24 weeks, patients treated with Taltz achieved significantly higher response rates compared to patients treated with Stelara, including 83 percent of patients who achieved Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) 90—the study’s primary endpoint—compared to 59 percent of patients who achieved PASI 90 after treatment with Stelara. Results at 24 weeks also found: • 91.2 percent of patients treated with Taltz achieved PASI 75 compared to 81.9 percent of patients treated with Stelara (p=0.015) • 49.3 percent of patients treated with Taltz achieved PASI 100 compared to 23.5 percent of patients treated with Stelara (p=0.001) • 86.6 percent of patients treated with Taltz achieve static Physician’s Global Assessment score (sPGA) 0 or 1 compared to 69.3 percent of patients treated with Stelara (p<0.001) The majority of treatment-emergent adverse events were mild or moderate. There were no statistically significant differences between treatment groups in overall treatment-emergent adverse events. The safety profile for Taltz was consistent with previous clinical trials. (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, Immunotherapy / 17.02.2017 Interview with: Brinda Emu MD Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases Yale University New Haven, CT What is the background for this study? Response: Ibalizumab is a fully humanized monoclonal antibody that targets the CD4 receptor.  This Phase III registrational study enrolled individuals with HIV infection that harbor high levels of multi-drug resistance, with limited treatment options.  At IDWeek in October, 2016, data was presented that demonstrated patients experienced a significant decrease in viral load after receiving a single loading dose of ibalizumab 2,000 mg intravenously (IV) in addition to their failing antiretroviral therapies (ART) (or no therapy). Seven days after this loading dose, 83% of patients achieved a ≥ 0.5 log10 decrease from baseline compared with 3% during the seven-day control period .These results were statistically significant (p<0.0001). At CROI, additional data on the Week 24 results from this study are now presented. (more…)
Allergies, Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Imperial College, JAMA / 16.02.2017 Interview with: Stephen R. Durham, MD Imperial College, London, and Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust London, United Kingdom What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Allergic rhinitis affects 1 in 4 the UK population and may compromise sleep and work/school performance and be associated with bronchial asthma. When nasal steroids and antihistamines do not work or cause side effects, allergen immunotherapy is an alternative. Immunotherapy using high doses of grass pollen allergen as monthly injections or daily tablets under the tongue are highly effective. Treatment for 3 years not only gives sustained improvement on treatment but also long-term benefits and disease remission for at least 2-3 years after stopping treatment. This single centre study at Imperial College London and Royal Brompton Hospital London included 106 adults with severe Hayfever followed up for 3 years, 2 years on treatment and 1 year after stopping treatment. In this double-blind trial, 3 randomised groups took sublingual immunotherapy, subcutaneous immunotherapy and placebo treatment. 92 completed the trial. Results showed that 2 years treatment with both modalities did not result in persistent benefit at year 3, although the researchers found that both treatments were effective compared to placebo during years 1 and 2. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Immunotherapy, JAMA / 12.02.2017 Interview with: Michael C. Heinrich, MD Professor of Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology Oregon Health & Sciences University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Prior to 2000, there were no effective medical treatments for advanced GI stromal tumor and patients faced an average life expectancy of 18 months or less.  In our study of the  long-term treatment results using imatinib (Gleevec),  we found that approximately 7% of patients were still on front-line therapy at 10 years without any evidence of tumor progression.  More importantly, the estimated 10 year survival was 23%.   Progression-free and overall survival rates were significantly higher for patients with KIT exon 11-mutant GIST when compared with patients with KIT exon 9-mutant or “wild-type” GIST (no KIT/PDGFRA mutations). (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Immunotherapy, Nature, Technology, University of Michigan / 27.12.2016 Interview with: James Moon, PhD John Gideon Searle Assistant Professor University of Michigan Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Biointerfaces Institute Ann Arbor, MI, 48109 What is the background for this study? Response: The field of cancer immunotherapy has recently made a breakthrough with the clinical success of immune checkpoint inhibitors, which work by removing the brakes on immunosuppressed T-cells. However, these approaches generally work by augmenting pre-existing T-cell immunity and benefit only a subset of patients. In addition, because the majority of somatic mutations in cancer cells are unique to each patient, cancer immunotherapy may benefit from a personalized approach. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Lancet, Lung Cancer / 23.12.2016 Interview with: Dr Kiyotaka Yoh Department of Thoracic Oncology National Cancer Center Hospital East Kashiwa, Japan What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: LURET is multicenter, single-arm, phase II study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of vandetanib as RET inhibitor in patients with advanced RET-rearranged non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In 2012, RET rearrangements were identified as rare oncogenic alterations for NSCLC. Among 17 eligible patients included in primary analysis, the objective response rate was 53% (95% CI 28–77), which met the primary endpoint. At the data cutoff, median progression-free survival was 4.7 months (95% CI 2.8–8.5). Overall, vandetanib was tolerated, with an adverse event profile similar to those seen in previous large population studies of vandetanib in patients with unselected NSCLC. (more…)