One of the most active fields of clinical investigation in immuno-oncology today is augmenting responses to checkpoint [CTLA4 or PD-(L)1] inhibition therapy by re-sensitizing tumors that were initially unresponsive or had stopped responding to treatment. Continue reading
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are simply cancer wonder drugs about which we are learning more each day. Because they don’t work optimally in many patients and some even hyper-progress, the goal is to determine ways to expand their effectiveness to more patients. As such, the number of clinical studies with checkpoints and checkpoint combinations continues to grow.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors act by blocking the abrogating phase of the immune response that is necessary to prevent autoimmune disease – by prolonging the immune response against cancer, a more robust and prolonged immune response, which is required for effective cancer therapy, is achieved with checkpoint therapy. Continue reading
Olaparib (Lynparza) is a PARP (poly-ADP ribose polymerase) inhibitor that was approved by the FDA in 2014 for the treatment of patients with advanced ovarian cancer who have mutated BRCA1,2 gene. Recently, the drug showed a 70% reduction in risk of progression in patients with less-advanced disease in the maintenance therapy setting:
The Phase III SOLO-2 trial demonstrated a significant improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) in germline BRCA-mutated (gBRCA), platinum-sensitive, relapsed ovarian cancer patients treated with Lynparza (olaparib) tablets (300mg twice daily) compared with placebo in the maintenance setting. The trial met its primary endpoint of investigator assessed PFS (HR 0.30; 95% CI 0.22 to 0.41; P<0.0001; median 19.1 months vs 5.5 months).
PARP inhibitors act in a counter-intuitive manner – by blocking PARP in the context of mutated BRCA1, the cell becomes overwhelmed with double strand breaks, leading to crisis and cell death. BRCA1 mutations, alone, predispose the cell to the accumulation of mutations in protooncogenes and tumor suppressor genes – a few double strand breaks are tumorigenic, whereas a massive number of double strand breaks, as occurs in the context of PARP inhibition, leads to apoptosis.
The use of PARP inhibitors for breast cancer makes great sense, However, in a Phase 3 trial of velparib, an experimental PARP inhibitor, failed to achieve better rates of complete pathogenic response in patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC – lack of HER-2, estrogen, and progesterone receptor up-regulation) versus chemotherapy, alone.
At the ASCO conference last week, AstraZeneca presented data on the use of olaparib in 302 patients with BRCA1,2 mutated breast cancer from its OlympiAD trial that compares olaparib against physician’s choice of chemotherapy (capecitabine 2500 mg/m2 d1-14 q 21, or vinorelbine 30 mg/m2 d1,8 q 21, or eribulin 1.4 mg/m2 d1,8 q 21):
OlympiAD Inclusion Criteria:
- Germline mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 that is predicted to be deleterious or suspected deleterious.
- Histologically or cytologically confirmed breast cancer with evidence of metastatic disease.
- Prior therapy with an anthracycline and a taxane in either an adjuvant or metastatic setting.
- Prior platinum allowed as long as no breast cancer progression occurred on treatment or if given in adjuvant/neoadjuvant setting at least 12 months from last dose to study entry elapsed.
- ER/PR breast cancer positive patients must have received and progressed on at least one endocrine therapy (adjuvant or metastatic), or have disease that the treating physician believes to be inappropriate for endocrine therapy.
- ECOG performance status 0-1.
- Adequate bone marrow, kidney and liver function.
OlympiAD Exclusion Criteria:
- Prior treatment with PARP inhibitor.
- Patients with HER2 positive disease.
- More than 2 prior lines of chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer.
- Untreated and/or uncontrolled brain metastases.
Results were quite impressive – this was the first study that demonstrated PARP inhibition is effective in breast cancer:
- About 60% of patients saw their tumors shrink, a hair more than double the 29% objective response rate seen in those patients on chemotherapy.
- Lynparza showed efficacy in patients with TNBC, which is more difficult to treat. AbbVie, which is developing its own PARP inhibitor called veliparib, recentlyannounced a study specifically geared to look at veliparib’s activity in triple negative breast cancer failed to show a benefit when added to chemo.
- Additionally, treatment with Lynparza improved the time to second progression or death compared to chemo,suggesting patients who relapsed after Lynparza experienced a less aggressive return of their cancers.
Astrazeneca is studying olaparib with many combinations, including a study in TNBC with PD-L1 inhibitor durvalumab and CTLA-4 inhibitor tremelimumab.
Immune checkpoint-directed therapy is producing unprecedented clinical results in many patients. So much so, that the FDA recently reversed its longstanding policy or approving cancer drugs based on site of origin, to the presence of a biomarker (microsatellite instability (MSI-H) or mismatch-deficient repair (dMDR) as the indication for therapy with pembrolizumab (Ketruda), and PD-1 blocker. Cancers expressing MSI-H or dMDR mutate at a rapid rate, presenting novel epitopes to the immune system, which is readily mobilized against them so that tumor infiltrating T-cells are reliably present. Blocking the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in this context allows for prolongation of the immune response and better clinical results. Continue reading
Checkpoint inhibitors, alone, are effective in 25% of patients when administered as a single agent. The goal of the collaboration between Celgene and Jounce is to address the other 75% of patients. The lead program is focused on ICOS, the Inducible T cell CO-Stimulator, a protein on the surface of T cells that can spur an immune response against a patient’s cancer. Continue reading
Researchers at AstraZeneca have completed a small-scale study which demonstrated the synergistic benefit of utilizing two immunotherapy drugs to combat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) over just a single immunotherapy drug. The study found that utilizing an immune checkpoint inhibitor for PD-1, called durvalumab, in combination with another immune checkpoint inhibitor for CTLA-4, called tremelimumab, had a tumor response rate of 23% for metastatic NSCLC. Researchers at AstraZeneca are, indeed, confident that combination immune checkpoint therapy is the key to developing more efficient immunotherapies to target and effectively treat cancer. Continue reading