Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, NEJM, Rheumatology / 24.12.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. dr. D.L.P. Baeten MD Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology Academic Medical Center University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Baeten: Ankylosing spondylitis is a debilitating rheumatic condition which affects young adults and with NSAIDS and TNF inhibitors as only therapeutic option. Over the last years, we generated evidence that IL-17 is an important inflammatory mediator in this condition. In the two studies reported here in the NEJM, we demonstrate that IL-17 inhibition with secukinumab has a very profound and long-lasting effect on signs and symptoms as well as inflammation in ankylosing spondylitis patients, even in those patients that failed a TNF blocker before. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Immunotherapy / 22.12.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Benjamin Greenbaum, PhD Assistant Professor and Professor Nina Bhardwaj MD PhD Hematology and Medical Oncology Tisch Cancer Institute Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York, NY 10029 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: It has recently become clear that, due to epigenetic alterations, tumors transcribe non-coding RNAs that are typically silenced. Often such RNA emanates from the “dark matter” genome. Many of these regions consist of repetitive elements and endogenous retroelements that are rarely transcribed in normal tissue. At the same time, due to immunotherapy, understanding the role of the immune system and immune activation in tumors has become critically important. The activation of specific elements of the innate immune system in a tumor may have either beneficial or detrimental effects for patients. Moreover, recent work has suggested that endogenous element activation can lead to improved immunotherapy outcomes. Therefore, it is critically important to understand the nature of innate immune activation in tumors and what triggers are responsible for these responses. We have been developing methods to detect abnormal patterns in viral RNA that may indicate activation of the innate immune system. We have found that patterns of motif usage avoided in the evolution of viruses, such as influenza, indicate RNA features that provoke an innate immune response. The innate immune system is capable of sensing motifs in viruses. We tested directly whether these avoided patterns are immunostimulatory. (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Ovarian Cancer / 02.12.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Junzo Hamanishi  M.D., Ph.D. Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine Assistant Professor Kyoto Japan Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Hamanishi: More than 70% of patients with advanced ovarian cancer who achieve remission ultimately relapse and there are few effective treatments for these patients. Because the development of new treatment strategies for these patients is urgently required, we have focused on and studied the potential of cancer cells to escape from host immunity with PD-1/PD-L1 immunosuppressive signal in the tumor microenvironment to find new treatment strategies to overcome this phenomenon, collaborating with Professor Honjo who discovered PD-1 since 2006. Therefore, we conducted a phase II clinical trial in 20 platinum-resistant, recurrent ovarian cancer patients to evaluate the safety and anti-tumor efficacy of anti-PD-1 antibody (nivolumab) with 2 cohort at a dose of 1 or 3 mg/kg (constituting two 10-patient cohorts). Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Hamanishi: This study is the first investigator-initiated phase II clinical trial testing the safety and efficacy of nivolumab against platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. In the 20 patients in whom responses could be evaluated, the best overall response was 15%, including two patients with a durable complete response (3mg/kg cohort). The disease control rate in all 20 patients was 45%. The median progression-free survival was 3.5 months, with a median overall survival of 20.0 months. Especially in the 3 mg/kg cohort, two patients achieved a complete response, and disease stabilized in another two patients. The objective response rate in 3mg/kg cohort cohort was 20% and disease was controlled in 40% of the higher-dose group. In the four patients who demonstrated an antitumor response, responses were durable and evident. Grade 3 or 4 treatment-related adverse events (AE) occurred in eight out of 20 patients or 40% overall. However, the frequency of AEs were not different in 2 cohorts. (more…)
Author Interviews, FDA, Immunotherapy, Lung Cancer / 24.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dickran Kazandjian, MD Office of Hematology and Oncology Products Center for Drug Evaluation and Research US Food and Drug Administration Silver Spring, Maryland Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kazandjian: Nivolumab is the first approved immunotherapy, for the treatment of metastatic squamous non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after platinum-based chemotherapy.  FDA initiated an expedited review after obtaining the data monitoring committee report of a planned interim analysis of a second-line squamous NSCLC trial demonstrating a large overall survival benefit (CheckMate 017). Nivolumab efficacy in metastatic Squamous (SQ) NSCLC has been previously reported in two studies.  CheckMate 063 was a single-arm trial in 117 patients with metastatic SQ NSCLC who had progressed after previous treatment with 2 systemic regimens including platinum-based doublet chemotherapy (Rizvi et al)  CheckMate 017 was a randomized study of nivolumab compared to docetaxel in 272 patients with metastatic SQ NSCLC who had progressed after prior platinum-based doublet chemotherapy (Brahmer et al).  The median survival of patients randomized to nivolumab was 9.2 months vs 6.0 months for docetaxel (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95%CI, 0.44-0.79; P < .001) a 41% improvement in the risk of death. Approval was supported by the single-arm study which demonstrated an objective response rate of 15% and at the time of analysis, 10 of the 17 responding patients (59%) had response  durations of 6 months or longer. The FDA approved nivolumab on March 4, 2015, saving 6 months by not waiting for formal preparation of data by the sponsor and 2.5 months by expediting review. (more…)
Author Interviews, Chemotherapy, Lung Cancer, NEJM, UT Southwestern / 11.10.2015

David E. Gerber, MD Associate Professor Division of Hematology-Oncology Associate Director for Clinical Research Co-Leader, Experimental Therapeutics Program Co-Director, Lung Disease Oriented Team Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TXMedicalResearch.com Interview with: David E. Gerber, MD Associate Professor Division of Hematology-Oncology Associate Director for Clinical Research Co-Leader, Experimental Therapeutics Program Co-Director, Lung Disease Oriented Team Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gerber: In this trial, we compared an immunotherapy and a chemotherapy drug in patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease continued to progress after first-line chemotherapy. We found that nivolumab immunotherapy improved overall survival compared to docetaxel chemotherapy and was generally well tolerated. These results are significant because options for patients whose lung cancer progresses after initial treatment are limited. Nivolumab is an immunotherapy drug that works by inhibiting the cellular pathway known as PD-1 protein on cells that block the body’s immune system from attacking cancerous cells.  The idea behind nivolumab and other immunotherapy drugs is to kick-start the body’s natural immune response to a cancer. Cancer develops and grows in part because it has put the brakes on the immune response. These drugs take the foot off the brake, allowing the immune system to accelerate and attack the cancer. The phase 3 clinical trial followed more than 500 patients who had non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): 287 received nivolumab and 268 received the chemotherapy drug docetaxel. The one-year survival rate was 51 percent in the nivolumab arm versus 39 percent in the docetaxel arm. The most common reported side effects with nivolumab were fatigue, nausea, decreased appetite, and weakness, and they were less severe than with docetaxel treatment. In a minority of cases, patients treated with nivolumab also developed autoimmune toxicities affecting various organs. In addition to studying safety and efficacy, the trial examined the protein biomarker PD-L1, which is believed to play a role in suppressing the immune system. The study results suggested that patients with a higher level of PD-L1 in their cancers may experience the greatest benefit from nivolumab, which targets the related molecule PD1. Using a biomarker helps oncologists predict which patients will do best on which treatment, and plan their treatment accordingly. Other promising predictive biomarkers for cancer immunotherapies include the degree of immune cell infiltration within a tumor and the number of mutations a tumor has. Specifically, the more mutations a cancer has, the more foreign it appears to the body, thus marking it for immune attack. With lung cancer, we see the greatest number of tumor mutations – and perhaps the greatest benefit from immunotherapy – among individuals with the heaviest smoking history. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Melanoma, Nature / 19.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Chiara Martinoli, PhD Medical Oncology of Melanoma European Institute of Oncology Milan, Italy MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Martinoli: The recent advent of new immunomodulatory drugs and targeted therapies is changing the therapeutic algorithm for metastatic melanoma patients. Immunomodulation with the anti-CTLA-4 antibody ipilimumab improves survival but is not devoid of potential risks. There is an urgent need for biomarkers to identify patients best suited to receive this therapy, in order to maximize treatment benefit and spare toxicities. In this study, by analyzing pre-therapy hematological parameters of a large group of metastatic melanoma patients treated with ipilimumab, we showed that neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio is strongly and independently associated to patient outcome. Patients with a low baseline neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio had a double-reduced risk of disease progression and a two-to-four-fold reduced risk of death, regardless of age, sex and LDH. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Gastrointestinal Disease, Immunotherapy / 11.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nynne Nyboe Andersen, MD, PhD student Department of Epidemiology Research Statens Serum Institut Copenhagen, Denmark Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Andersen: The use of TNF-α inhibitors, including infliximab, adalimumab and certolizumab pegol to treat people with inflammatory bowel disease is increasing worldwide and has upgraded the medical treatment modalities. However, concerns about their safety, including an increased risk of serious infections have persisted because they suppress the immune system. Previous meta-analyses based on randomized controlled trials did not suggest an increased risk of serious infections in people with inflammatory bowel disease treated with TNF-α inhibitors compared to placebo. However, the trials included in the meta-analyses were designed to investigate efficacy, and not to analyze risk of rare adverse events such as serious infections and often represent selected populations. Therefore, observational studies are essential to evaluate safety in a real world setting; however, results from these studies have been conflicting. Thus, as the risk of infections associated with TNF-α inhibitor treatment in people with inflammatory bowel disease is unclear we aimed at investigating this potential risk in a population-based setting based on the entire Danish inflammatory bowel disease population. In a propensity score matched cohort we found a significant 63% increased risk of serious infections within 90 days after treatment initiation. When we prolonged follow-up to 356 days the risk was attenuated and no longer significant.  For site-specific serious infections, we found increased point estimates for sepsis, urological/gynecological infections, and skin and soft tissue infections; but these results should be interpreted cautiously because of limited power. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Melanoma / 02.06.2015

Prof. Ze'ev Ronai Ph.D Scientific Director Sanford-Burnham's La JollaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Ze'ev Ronai Ph.D Scientific Director Sanford-Burnham's La Jolla Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Ronai: There is an urgent need to find new approaches to treat melanoma in patients that are resistant to current therapeutic regimes—and this represents a significant percent of melanoma patients.  We used  samples from patients with drug resistant tumors  to study the molecular basis of resistance and screened for genes involved in the process. We have identified a new player in melanoma resistance to therapy—a molecular target, which provides the basis for clinical trials with drugs currently available to these targets. We found that JAK1 kinase is one target that  is upregulated in the resistant tumors. Inhibiting JAK1 kinase can effectively overcome such resistance.  (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 31.05.2015

Tanguy Seiwert, MD Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine Associate Director, Head and Neck Cancer Program Section of Hematology/Oncology Fellow, Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology Speciality Chief Editor, Frontiers in Head and Neck Cancer University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Tanguy Seiwert, MD Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine Associate Director, Head and Neck Cancer Program Section of Hematology/Oncology Fellow, Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology Speciality Chief Editor Frontiers in Head and Neck Cancer University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Seiwert: Recurrent/metastatic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC) remains poorly treatable with a median OS of 10-13 months There is evidence of a  prominent immune escape observed in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) suggesting that anti-PD1 agents (similar to e.g. melanoma) may be active. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Seiwert:
  • One in four patients with Head/Neck cancer treated with pembrolizumab showed marked tumor shrinkage (so called – partial/complete responses), and 57% of patients experienced any decrease in the size of their tumors.
  • Pembrolizumab is broadly active in both HPV(-) and HPV(+) types of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
  • Pemborliuzmab treatment is active in heavily pretreated squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck patients.
  • Responses seem to be durable è 86% of responding patients remain in response.
Treatment overall was well tolerated with less than 10% of patients experiencing severe side effects (≥Grade 3). (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Journal Clinical Oncology, Mayo Clinic / 31.05.2015

Ruben A. Mesa, MD, FACP Consultant Hematologist Chair, Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology Deputy Director, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Professor of Medicine Mayo Clinic Cancer Center NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center Scottsdale, AZMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ruben A. Mesa, MD, FACP Consultant Hematologist Chair, Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology Deputy Director, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Professor of Medicine Mayo Clinic Cancer Center NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center Scottsdale, AZ Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Mesa: Myelofibrosis is a rare and chronic blood cancer associated with significantly reduced quality of life and shortened survival. In patients with this disease, spleen enlargement (splenomegaly) is a very common and debilitating symptom – and as the disease progresses, the body slows production of important blood cells. The results presented at ASCO were from the PERSIST-1 study, which is a Phase 3 registration-directed trial designed to compare pacritinib — an investigational oral multikinase inhibitor with specificity for JAK2 and FLT3 – to best available therapy (exclusive of a JAK inhibitor) in patients with myelofibrosis — regardless of their platelet counts.  Data from this study showed that compared to best available therapy, pacritinib resulted in a significantly higher proportion of patients with spleen volume reduction and control of disease-related symptoms, regardless of platelet levels at the time of enrollment. (more…)