GRACE :: Lung Cancer

Search cancerGRACE.org

Gene Profiles/Molecular Signatures

GRACE Video

Immunotherapy Combinations

Share

GRACEcast-526_Lung_West_Immunotherapy_Combinations

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, discusses current trials seeking to determine the efficacy of combining immunotherapy agents in lung cancer.

Download Transcript

How Did You Like This Video?

Please feel free to offer comments and raise questions in our Discussion Forums.

 

Transcript

The class of agents known as immune checkpoint inhibitors have really invigorated our study of lung cancer, and many other cancers over the last few years. Agents like Opdivo, also known as nivolumab, and Keytruda, known as pembrolizumab, are now commercially available, FDA approved as a second line therapy for patients who have progressed on first line standard chemotherapy. We are now actively asking the question of whether we might be able to move these immunotherapies into the first line setting and also asking whether we might do well by giving a combination of immune therapies, rather then just one treatment at a time.

So these agents, immune checkpoint inhibitors, are largely categorized into PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors, and those are just targeting two separate sides of an interaction between two receptors. The PD-L1 is on the tumor cells, PD-1 is on the immune T cells, and so blocking either side of this can lead to a beneficial effect because this effect leads to a braking mechanism on the immune system — you take away that braking system and you turn off the brakes and lead things to move forward, and that’s what we often see.

There are other agents that can also lead to braking mechanisms and that have been studied in other cancers. An agent such as Yervoy, which is known as ipilimumab is a CTLA-4 inhibitor and this is an agent that’s been approved in melanoma. In fact, the combination of Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab), as two different ways of blocking the immune system, have been shown to be beneficial as a combination in melanoma compared with either one on its own. Because of that, we’re looking at combinations of immunotherapies compared with single immunotherapy approaches, or standard chemotherapies.

One interesting study being done right now is called CheckMate 227 and it is looking at first line treatment of patients with advanced lung cancer that is either squamous or non-squamous histology. It does not require any level of PD-L1 expression on the tumors, the protein associated with tendency toward better efficacy of immunotherapies, partly with the thought that the combination of two immunotherapies may make even the cancers that don’t express PD-L1 respond well. This trial is looking at first line therapy with either standard chemotherapy of cisplatin or carboplatin with Alimta for non-squamous cancers, or Gemzar (gemcitabine) for squamous cancers, compared with either Opdivo alone or a combination of Opdivo and Yervoy — Opdivo being a PD-1 inhibitor, Yervoy being a CTLA-4 inhibitor — and asking the question of whether immunotherapy is as good, better, or worse than standard chemotherapy as a first line treatment, and whether the combination of two immunotherapies is better than first line therapy. 

I should mention that there are other trials looking at very similar versions of this question using different combinations of immunotherapies. There are many companies looking at several different immunotherapies in development and they are overall really very comparable and all quite exciting.

You can learn more about this specific trial from the link on the screen,

CheckMate 227 Clinical Trial

but I would encourage you, if you talk to your doctor and they recommend a trial with an immunotherapy in the first line setting, potentially comparing it to chemotherapy, to carefully consider it — it does not have to be this specific trial to be of interest.

We’re going to learn more about this in the coming years and we’re going to figure out the best way to integrate immunotherapies with our standard treatment approaches today.


GRACE Video

Immunotherapy as First-Line Treatment

Share

GRACEcast-525_Lung_West_Immunotherapy_First_Line_Treatment

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, raises the question of whether to use immune checkpoint inhibitors as first-line treatment of lung cancer, alone or in combination with chemotherapy.

Download Transcript

How Did You Like This Video?

Please feel free to offer comments and raise questions in our Discussion Forums.

 

Transcript

A class of agents known as immune checkpoint inhibitors has really incredibly invigorated the field of lung cancer and many other cancers over the last year or two. These agents are given intravenously and essentially take off a braking mechanism for the immune system and by doing that, can stimulate it to recognize and attack your own cancer. These agents, at least a couple of them, have been approved by the FDA as of now, in late 2015, and the question is whether they should be used earlier than the second line setting where they’ve already been approved.

Two agents, one known as Opdivo or nivolumab, and another known as Keytruda or pembrolizumab, are approved in patients who have already demonstrated progression after receiving a first line chemotherapy. So the question is: should these treatments be given earlier in therapy? There are two leading considerations in how we might do this. One is that we might give an immunotherapy in combination with standard chemotherapy. There are other ways to do this that might give the immunotherapy instead of standard chemotherapy. There are studies looking at various combinations being done with any of the many immune checkpoint inhibitors that are in development right now.

An interesting trial that is being done now is with pembrolizumab, or Keytruda — this is the KEYNOTE-189 trial that is looking at whether the addition of Keytruda to standard chemotherapy improves outcomes for patients when they get it first line. Specifically this trial is for patients with a non-squamous cancer and these patients can have any level of PD-L1 expression, the protein that tends to be associated with better activity of the immune checkpoint inhibitors — there’s no restriction on PD-L1 expression and patients just have to have not received prior therapy for advanced lung cancer. These patients are then randomized to receive the two drug chemotherapy combination of cisplatin or carboplatin with Alimta, or that same chemotherapy combination with Keytruda (pembrolizumab). That study is being done now and we hope to learn more about it in the next year or two, to learn whether it is beneficial to give these immunotherapy agents in combination with chemotherapy, compared to giving them sequentially.

Another very similar study, though looking at squamous lung cancer, is called EMPOWER 131 — this is with an immune checkpoint inhibitor known as atezolizumab. This agent is being looked at in combination with either carboplatin and Taxol, or carboplatin and Abraxane, a very similar agent. There are two arms of this study where a patient gets a combination of chemotherapy and the immune therapy, and the third arm is just carboplatin and Abraxane alone. We should learn more about the potential benefits of combining immune checkpoint inhibitors with chemotherapy in the first line setting from this, looking at both patients with squamous and non-squamous histology in different trials.


GRACE Video

Maintenance Therapy for Advanced NSCLC

Share

GRACEcast-522_Lung_West_Maintenance_Therapy_Advanced_NSCLC

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, defines maintenance therapy in advanced NSCLC and discusses maintenance treatment strategies.

Download Transcript

How Did You Like This Video?

Please feel free to offer comments and raise questions in our Discussion Forums.

 

Transcript

For patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, our typical approach, if we have someone who does not have a driver mutation that we typically treat with a pill-based targeted therapy, is to give chemotherapy. That chemotherapy is typically given in a cycle of three weeks or sometimes a four week period of time where the blood counts go down and then recover. That treatment is typically given once every three weeks, sometimes once or twice on a weekly basis in that three week interval, but we typically give that therapy for about four to six cycles of therapy — that’s about three to five months of treatment. By that time, by four to six cycles in, the two drug combination that includes a drug called platinum is usually creating some cumulative side effects: fatigue, low blood counts, and other complicating issues that make it increasingly challenging to administer more of the same potentially intensive therapy, and by four to six cycles you really tend to reach a point of diminishing returns.

At that point we often favor a maintenance therapy approach. That is, dropping the carboplatin or stopping all of the agents that have been given previously and either continuing one or more of the agents from the first line setting, or using what’s called switch maintenance to give a completely different treatment. These maintenance therapies are designed to do what their name suggests — to maintain a response after we’ve seen the most shrinkage that we’re likely to get from the more intensive first line therapy.

When we do a continuous maintenance approach, it’s typically taking a drug like cisplatin or carboplatin in combination with one or two partner drugs, usually a second chemotherapy agent and sometimes Avastin which blocks a tumor’s blood supply, and then after four to six cycles we drop the platinum and we will typically continue a drug like Alimta if that’s been given in the first line setting, and if a drug like Avastin has also been given we might continue that and give Alimta and Avastin together until the cancer progresses.

If a combination like carboplatin and Taxol were given with Avastin, the maintenance therapy is often just the Avastin because Taxol tends to have some cumulative neuropathy issues — numbness and tingling that can lead to a real limitation in how much of that therapy you can give. We might also consider a switch maintenance approach — instead of continuing some of the agents, come in with Alimta as a single agent if a patient has non-squamous histology. Another agent that is approved as a switch maintenance therapy is Tarceva (erlotinib) — this doesn’t tend to be as favored as a switch maintenance because the efficacy of Tarceva in patients who don’t have an EGFR mutation tends to be on the lower side.

What do these maintenance therapies have in common? Well they’re all agents that can be given on a longitudinal basis without a lot of cumulative side effects and they tend to be the agents that have good activity in patients who have already been on prior therapy. So any of these is a reasonable choice, the most common being a continuation maintenance of dropping the platinum and continuing one or two partner drugs that were given with it, or sometimes switching to an agent like Alimta (pemetrexed) or Tarceva (erlotinib). It’s also reasonable to not pursue maintenance therapy if a patient has cumulative side effects and really needs a break from therapy. That is certainly something to discuss with the patient; it’s not as if maintenance therapy is a mandate for all patients, but it is something that is a strong consideration if a patient is motivated and can continue to tolerate ongoing therapy after four to six cycles.


GRACE Video

Rociletinib/Osimertinib for EGFR T790M-negative NSCLC

Share
GRACE Cancer Video Library - Lung

GCVL_LU-F13_Rociletinib_Osimertinib_EGFR_T790M-Negative_NSCLC

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, reviews trial evidence for the efficacy of rociletinib and osimertinib for EGFR acquired resistance not driven by a T790M mutation.

Download Transcript

How Did You Like This Video?

Please feel free to offer comments and raise questions in our Discussion Forums.

 

Transcript

For patients who have an activating mutation in their cancer known as EGFR we have several very good first line treatment options to consider. There are three leading contenders as oral targeted therapies that block EGFR and tend to work very well for patients with an EGFR mutation. These agents are known as Iressa (gefitinib), Tarceva (erlotinib), and Gilotrif (afatinib). These agents have a chance of shrinking the tumor in the range of 60% to 75% which is great, but unfortunately these responses do not last forever and on average, patients will develop progression of their cancer, so-called acquired resistance to this first line therapy, after something in the range of nine to 12 months — can be less, can be more.

The question is what to do when that occurs. Well, there are a couple of agents that have shown great promise and great activity, at least in the subset of patients who have a mutation, found at the time of this acquired resistance, that is known as T790M. And so we repeat a biopsy of an area of progressing cancer while patients are on and progressing on this first line EGFR inhibitor, and 50% or 60% will have this acquired resistance mutation known as T790M. For those patients, we standardly consider drugs like osimertinib and rociletinib, and I say standardly consider as if they’re commercially available, and they’re not yet, at this moment in late 2015, FDA approved but it is expected that both will be approved by the FDA based on their very good activity in the very near future, perhaps by the time you see this.

But these agents are best studied and have their greatest activity in the patients with a T790M mutation. So what about the patients who are still 40% or 50% of that population with progressing cancer on an EGFR inhibitor who don’t have a T790M mutation? It turns out that both of these agents have good activity, or at least some degree of activity, in patients who are T790M-negative. It doesn’t tend to be as long-lasting and the response rates tend to be lower, but the activity is certainly encouraging.

GCVL_LU-XXNN_Jack_West_Swedish_15_01

When you look at what’s called a waterfall plot that’s shown here of how patients respond, the bars going downward represent patients whose cancers have shrunk, and the ones that go upward are the ones whose cancers have progressed on a therapy. You can see that when we look at patients who received osimertinib, the AstraZeneca drug AZD9291, there is good activity in the majority of patients who receive this agent, even if they have no T790M mutation.

GCVL_LU-XXNN_Jack_West_Swedish_15_02

The same is true for rociletinib, the Clovis drug CO1686 — the waterfall plot shows that most of the bars do go down, and that a lot of patients receive a substantial benefit, even if they do not have T790M detected in their rebiopsied tumor.

So there are studies that are looking specifically at these agents in patients who are T790M-negative. A trial with rociletinib known as TIGER-3 is looking at patients who have received prior EGFR inhibitors like Iressa, Tarceva or Gilotrif, and have also received prior chemotherapy. These patients are then randomized to either receive rociletinib or a standard chemotherapy as a single agent, and there are several that your doctor can choose from. This trial will be looking at which patients do better depending on whether they get the targeted therapy or standard chemotherapy.

There is another trial being done with osimertinib in combination with an EGFR monoclonal antibody known as necitumumab, so a two drug combination being looked at in patients who are T790M-negative after progressing on a first line EGFR inhibitor. So both of these agents are being studied not just in patients with a T790M-positive cancer, but a T790M-negative cancer, and if you do have acquired resistance and are found to not have a T790M mutation, you might want to look into information about these trials to see if one might be a good choice for you.


GRACE Video

Are There Clinically Significant Distinctions Between PD-1 and PD-L1?

Share
GRACE Cancer Video Library - Lung

GCVL_LU-FE02_Clinically_Significant_Differences_PD-1_PD-L1

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, compares the mechanism of action, efficacy and toxicity of PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors.

Download Transcript

How Did You Like This Video?

Please feel free to offer comments and raise questions in our Discussion Forums.

 

Transcript

Among the most exciting developments in lung cancer over the last few years has been the introduction of immune checkpoint inhibitors — agents that are given by vein that help to stimulate the immune system, really by turning off one of the braking mechanisms. There are two main treatment approaches that are used, they’re called PD-L1 inhibitors and PD-1 inhibitors. These PD-1 and PD-L1 are receptors that attach to each other, and when they work together they lead to a braking mechanism for the immune system. These antibodies can block either the PD-1 or the PD-L1 side of that and turn off that braking mechanism, much like taking off the emergency brake on a car and leading it to roll ahead.

PD-1 is on the T cells of the immune system, PD-L1 is on the tumor cells, so there are different agents and they block different sides of this interaction. The question is: does it matter which one you get or are they all pretty much the same? There are two agents as of now that are FDA approved in advanced lung cancer and those are Opdivo, known as nivolumab, and Keytruda, known as pembrolizumab, although there are other agents that are likely to become FDA approved in the future.

These two agents, Opdivo and pembrolizumab, are both PD-1 inhibitors. Others such as atezolizumab and others are known as PD-L1 inhibitors. Does it matter which one you get — do the results differ? Well we don’t absolutely know because we have not yet seen the results or even done a trial that directly compares how patients do when they get one over another, but the results are remarkably similar regardless of which agent is tested in the same setting. Specifically they all seem to produce response rates of about 15% to 20% in the broad population, and if we look at patients who have significant PD-L1 expression, the protein that is associated with the more inhibitory effect, we see better results with any of these.

It remains to be seen whether you can treat a patient with a PD-1 inhibitor like Keytruda, like Opdivo, and then get a good result once they show progression because you’ve given them a PD-L1 inhibitor, but for all intents and purposes, the results in terms of efficacy and also side effect profiles are remarkably similar and most specialists feel they are really essentially interchangeable until we see evidence showing otherwise.


Ask Us, Q&A
Lung/Thoracic Cancer Expert Content

Archives

Share

GRACE Cancer Video Library - Lung Cancer Videos

 

2015_Immunotherapy_Forum_Videos

 

2015 Acquired Resistance in Lung Cancer Patient Forum Videos

Share

Join the GRACE Faculty

Breast Cancer Blog
Pancreatic Cancer Blog
Kidney Cancer Blog
Bladder Cancer Blog
Head/Neck Cancer Blog
Share

Subscribe to the GRACEcast Podcast on iTunes

Share

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon

Subscribe to
GRACE Notes
   (Free Newsletter)

Other Resources

Share

ClinicalTrials.gov


Biomedical Learning Institute

peerview_institute_logo_243