May 20, 2018

Breakthrough on cancer as treatment stops disease coming back

18 April 2018, 04:59 | Darrell Baldwin

Merck extends its lead in immuno-oncology with 'practice-changing' lung cancer data

#AACR: Merck spotlights pivotal Keytruda/chemo data, hoping to break down skepticism to its frontline lung cancer duo

The addition of atezolizumab to bevacizumab plus chemotherapy extended PFS for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, according to results from the IMpower150 study presented at American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting.

In the study called CheckMate-227, 43 percent of patients with high TMB who received Opdivo and low-dose Yervoy experienced no disease progression after one year versus 13 percent in the chemotherapy group.

The three drugs mentioned in the story - Keytruda, Yervoy and Opdivo - are known as checkpoint inhibitors, which remove the ability of some cancer cells to hide from the immune system.

Two thirds were given immunotherapy drugs combined with chemotherapy while...

"The remarkable results of the team led by Drew Pardoll reflects both the power of collaboration between Stand Up To Cancer, the Cancer Research Institute, and the institutions and researchers participating in this Dream Team, as well as Stand Up's funding model which integrates semi-annual, rigorous, in-person reviews, enabling teams to pivot to where the science leads, and to allocate Team resources to trials which are most likely to benefit patients", said Nobel Laureate and Chairperson of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, Institute professor at the MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Then, they underwent the surgery they needed for their type of the disease, lung cancer.

Local and regional doctors presented findings, treatment advances and lessons on screening for lung cancer Monday at Christiana Care's inaugural Lung Cancer Symposium. It's the biggest win so far for immunotherapy, which has had much of its success until now in less common cancers.

"This is great that there's new options and improved outcomes" for patients with lung cancer, Hellman said. The estimated survival after a year was 69 % in those taking the immunotherapy drugs compared to 49 % who only had chemotherapy.

Pembrolizumab, sold under the brand name Keytruda, is an FDA-approved drug sold by a subsidiary of Merck & Company, Inc. that sponsored this study. But when the drugs work, responses can be long-lasting, and researchers are rushing to find ways to combine treatments to improve their effects and to determine which formulation is best for each patient.

Researchers reported longer median PFS in the experimental arm (8.3 months vs. 6.8 months) across all PD-L1 expression subgroups, including patients with PD-L1 expression of less than 1% or from 1% to 50% (HR = 0.62; 95% CI, 0.5-0.76).

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in DE and nationwide, which is why doctors at Christiana Care Health System are working towards new approaches to catch it in early stages and improve treatments. Median survival is met when 50% of the patients die. Median OS had yet to be reached, whereas the median OS in the placebo-chemotherapy arm was 11.3 months. "This is really a pivotal study. a new standard of care", said Shaw, who has no ties to the drugmakers. "The differences are big enough now that you know it's going to be a very big number and it's important to get this information to people so they can start using this regimen".

The combination tripled progression-free survival at one year compared with a chemotherapy arm (43% vs 13%), and response rate was almost double that compared with chemotherapy (45.3% vs 26.9%) at one year. "Now, not everybody benefits unfortunately, but some of the people who benefit seem to benefit in a way we've never seen".

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