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GRACE Video

Histology-Specific Regimens – Squamous

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GRACE Cancer Video Library - Lung

GCVL_LU-F06_Histology_Specific_Regimens_Squamous

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, reviews the choices for a first-line chemotherapy regimen based on a squamous histology.

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There are a few common subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer. These are broken down by histology — the appearance of it under the microscope. The most common is called adenocarcinoma; the second most common is known as squamous histology and this accounts for somewhere in the range of 20% to 25% of the non-small cell lung cancers out there.

There are many standard chemotherapy regimens that are commonly used for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, and overall they tend to produce very comparable results, making it very reasonable to choose one or another without a lot of difference, but there are certain regimens that might be more or less favored. For instance, in the setting of squamous lung cancer, there are a couple that we really choose to avoid in these patients because they are either unsafe or less effective.

So in terms of safety, one of the agents that we really prefer to not give is called Avastin and it is not a standard chemotherapy, but sometimes added to chemotherapy as a third agent that blocks the tumor blood supply. This can be helpful in some patients with non-squamous histology, but it has led to an unacceptably high risk of bleeding complications in patients with squamous histology. Because of that we do not give it in that setting — it is not considered safe.

Another agent that is really not favored is known as Alimta or pemetrexed, and that is because it does not seem to have good efficacy — it doesn’t do better than giving a placebo drug in that setting.

There are certainly other good choices. A cisplatin or carboplatin drug combined with an agent like Taxol, also known as paclitaxel, is a fine choice. There is also a related drug called Abraxane, which is also known as albumin-bound paclitaxel or NAB paclitaxel. This agent was added to carboplatin and compared to carboplatin and Taxol in a large group of patients with advanced lung cancer of a few different types, and the patients with squamous histology had a higher rate of tumor shrinkage if they received the carboplatin and Abraxane combination, than carboplatin and Taxol. It’s not an overwhelming difference and there wasn’t a clear difference in survival, but because of this some people might favor carboplatin and Abraxane.

Another choice that might be considered and favored in patients with squamous lung cancer is a platinum with Gemzar, also known as gemcitabine, and that’s because there was a randomized trial that gave cisplatin and Gemzar, or cisplatin and Alimta to patients with different types of lung cancer, and that study showed that the patients who got cisplatin and Gemzar did better overall than the patients who got cisplatin and Alimta. That might have been in large part because Alimta is not very effective in squamous lung cancer, but in fact we do tend to favor giving Gemzar as a leading partner with a platinum drug, if not a taxane. The taxane drugs: Taxol, Abraxane, or Taxotere, all seem to have efficacy that is every bit as good in the patients who have a squamous or non-squamous lung cancer.

So there are certainly several options, but some may be particularly better for patients with squamous histology.


GRACE Video

Histology-Specific Regimens – Adenocarcinoma

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GCVL_LU-F05_Histology_Specific_Regimens_Adenocarcinoma

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, addresses the issue of choosing a first-line chemotherapy regimen based on an adenocarcinoma histology.

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There are several different subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer and these are broken down by what is called histology — how they appear under the microscope. The most common subtype of non-small cell lung cancer is known as adenocarcinoma and there may be specific recommendations about what chemotherapy to recommend for patients with an adenocarcinoma.

In general, we favor a two-drug so-called platinum-based doublet for the vast majority of patients with an advanced or stage IV lung cancer, but the exact chemotherapy combination we might favor can differ depending on whether a patient has one subtype, one histology, or another. So for patients with a lung adenocarcinoma it’s fair to say that any of the chemotherapy doublets widely used is an acceptable choice — cisplatin or carboplatin with a taxane such as Taxol, also known as paclitaxel, or docetaxel which is also known as Taxotere, you could consider Gemzar, also known as gemcitabine, but one that is often favored is called Alimta, or pemetrexed.

Why is that? Well, there was a study that was published years ago that looked at the combination of cisplatin and gemcitabine, or Gemzar, versus cisplatin and Alimta, and there were no major differences between the large groups of patients overall, but when they looked specifically at the subgroups based on whether they had a squamous or a non-squamous cancer, the patients who had a squamous cancer did better with cisplatin and gemcitabine, and the opposite was true for the patients with a non-squamous cancer — those patients did particularly well with cisplatin and Alimta. Since then there have been several other studies that have shown particularly favorable results with Alimta in patients with adenocarcinoma histology.

It’s fair to say that there are not great differences, but the tendency toward a more favorable efficacy in patients with adenocarcinoma and the good tolerability, lead many lung cancer specialists and general oncologists alike, to favor a combination of a platinum drug with Alimta for patients with a non-squamous, and especially, an adenocarcinoma histology.


GRACE Video

What is the Role of Bevacizumab in Stage IV NSCLC?

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GCVL_LU-F09_Bevacizumab_Role_Stage_IV_NSCLC

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, discusses the anti-angiogenic agent bevacizumab (Avastin) and the trial evidence of its efficacy for non-squamous NSCLC.

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In addition to standard chemotherapy, usually a two drug combination, we sometimes add a third drug called Avastin, also known as bevacizumab. Now this is not a standard chemotherapy agent — instead Avastin acts as an anti-angiogenic therapy, that is, it blocks the tumor’s blood supply, and it is sometimes included in the treatment regimen really only for the patients who have a non-squamous cancer.

Why is that? Well, years ago when Avastin was first being studied in many different kinds of patients with lung cancer — non-small cell lung cancer, either squamous or non-squamous, we found that a significant minority of patients had problems with bleeding complications, specifically coughing up blood that reached a potentially life-threatening or fatal level. That was found to be almost always limited to the patients with squamous histology. So obviously we decided that was not the way to go, and studies after that really limited treatment with Avastin to patients with non-squamous lung cancer. After that we found that even though you could have bleeding complications in a small minority of patients, it was much less of a concern when Avastin is limited to patients with non-squamous lung cancer.

Now, it is FDA approved in combination with two-drug chemotherapy, specifically the combination of carboplatin and Taxol, also known as paclitaxel. That’s because a key trial known as ECOG 4599, which was done across many different centers in North America, compared standard chemotherapy with carboplatin and paclitaxel or Taxol, to the same chemotherapy with Avastin added to it. The study found that patients tended to live longer by an average of about two months. Because of that, and the tolerable side effect profile, it became standard of care to at least consider adding Avastin to the two-drug chemotherapy combination for patients with non-squamous histology.

Now importantly, a couple of other studies have been done since that time, also using Avastin, that didn’t clearly show a survival benefit, and because of that, Avastin is really considered an option but not an absolute mandate, and many oncologists do not routinely use it for most or all of their patients. It’s something to discuss with a patient perhaps, but for patients who have a history of brain metastases or any potential bleeding complications, it may not be advisable because the safety may be enough of a concern to minimize that, and it has not consistently shown a survival benefit after that ECOG trial that I mentioned. But, for some patients it is reasonable to do a two-drug combination of chemotherapy, whether that is carboplatin and Taxol, or perhaps a different one such as carboplatin and Alimta, also known as pemetrexed, while adding Avastin to that.


GRACE Video

Platinum-Based Chemo Doublets: Backbone for NSCLC Treatment

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GRACEcast-515_Lung_West_Platinum_Based_Chemo_Doublets_Backbone_NSCLC_Treatment

 

Dr. Jack West, Swedish Cancer Institute, identifies the platinum-based chemotherapy doublet as the backbone of first-line treatment for the majority of NSCLC patients.

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The most common subtype of lung cancer is known as non-small cell lung cancer which comprises about 87% or 88% of all of the lung cancers out there. One of the big challenges in managing lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer specifically is that about half of patients are diagnosed at a time when they already have stage IV or metastatic disease. At that time, this is not a cancer that we can treat to cure it, but our goal is to prolong survival as much as possible and also to minimize the cancer-related symptoms, as well as the treatment-related side effects.

Over the last 10 to 15 years we’ve really clarified the best approach in terms of chemotherapy for the majority of people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Now, chemotherapy is the optimal approach for patients who do not have a so-called driver mutation, which is an uncommon mutation such as EGFR or ALK or ROS1 that you may hear about which are present in a minority of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, but the majority of patients don’t have one of these driver mutations.

For that majority who don’t have a driver mutation, the optimal treatment approach is standard two-drug chemotherapy. This is specifically called a platinum-based doublet and it’s called that because the main component or the first component is a drug called cisplatin or carboplatin that has been studied for many years and is paired with another drug such as Taxol, also known as paclitaxel, or Taxotere, known as docetaxel as well, Gemzar, also known as gemcitabine, Alimta, also known as pemetrexed, or occasionally other agents.

These two-drug combinations have been compared in many trials and really shown to be essentially remarkably similar if not identical in efficacy. Because of that, we usually choose the treatment, the two-drug combination, to recommend based on issues such as convenience to the patient — some of them are every week administration, others are every three weeks; for some patients coming in a long distance, three-week treatment is much more convenient. Some have hair loss, some do not, and also some of these agents may be particularly a little more effective in some subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer — known as the particular histology, and others might be a better choice for a different histology.

We’re going to talk about that specific difference and which regimens we might exactly recommend for one subtype or another in other videos, but right now it’s important just to note that the mainstay of treatment for the patients who don’t have a driver mutation, in the first line setting, is a two-drug platinum-based combination — cisplatin or carboplatin, with a partner drug, and they really do seem to produce very comparable results.

We’ll talk about some potential specific differences in other videos.

Thanks.


GRACE Video

Appropriate Chemo Regimens with Radiation for Locally Advanced NSCLC

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GRACE Cancer Video Library - Lung

GCVL_LU-E10_Appropriate_Chemo_Regimens_Locally_Advanced_NSCLC

 

Dr. Nasser Hanna, Indiana University Health, lists chemo regiments appropriate for use with radiation in locally advanced NSCLC.

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I’m often asked, “what is the preferred chemotherapy treatment that we should be giving to patients when combining it with radiation for those with stage III disease?” We know that for patients who have stage IV disease, we commonly give a two drug chemotherapy regimen. One of those drugs is a platinum agent, either carboplatin or cisplatin, and then the second drug really depends upon the histology or the particular subtype of lung cancer the patient has. Today, if a patient has an adenocarcinoma, that chemotherapy drug is most oftentimes going to be pemetrexed; if the patient has a squamous cell cancer, that drug oftentimes with be either paclitaxel or docetaxel, or gemcitabine.

So how do those drugs behave, or how do those drugs work in the stage III setting? Well we’ve learned some lessons: first we’ve learned that it’s very difficult to give one of those drugs, gemcitabine, in combination with radiation therapy, so as a result we’ve largely been giving paclitaxel and carboplatin. Some people use docetaxel, although most of the data is with paclitaxel. More recently, people are using pemetrexed and cisplatin, and historically we’ve used cisplatin and etoposide because in previous years that was our standard of care for patients who had metastatic disease, but really was the most well established regimen when giving radiation combined with chemotherapy in the stage III setting.

In the United States the two most commonly used regimens are cisplatin and etoposide combined with radiation, or carboplatin and paclitaxel combined with radiation. So which regimen should we preferentially give? Well those two regimens have never been compared head to head. We have looked at a number of clinical trials in which different strategies have been tested, but never the strategy of testing those two regimens head to head. Now we’ve recently gotten indirect evidence on what is the efficacy or the effectiveness of those two regimens and how would they compare if we were to do head to head comparisons, and these analyses suggest that it probably doesn’t make much difference — that the regimens are probably very, very similar. Most recently there was a clinical trial of cisplatin and pemetrexed with radiation against cisplatin and etoposide with radiation and that head to head comparison really showed no difference in outcomes between those two strategies.

Today we can say that really any one of those regimens is reasonable. Some people are wedded to the cisplatin and etoposide regimen because it’s what they’ve been most familiar with and they understand how to handle the side effects, lots of people like the convenience of carboplatin and paclitaxel  because it’s given weekly, and some people are drawn to the newest regimen which is cisplatin and pemetrexed. But I really don’t think that there are discernible differences. There may be some differences in the side effects, but I think in terms of outcomes they all seem to be fairly comparable.


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