New Immunotherapy Drug Data Show Promise in Treating Cancer

Cell based Immunotherapies are proven to be effective for some cancers. Immune effector cells such as lymphocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, natural killer cells (NK Cell), cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), etc., work together to defend the body against cancer by targeting abnormal antigens expressed on the surface of the tumor due to mutation. {Immunotherapy – Wikipedia article}

A research campus operated by Bristol-Myers Sq...

A research campus operated by Bristol-Myers Squibb in Princeton, New Jersey. Photographed by user Coolcaesar on September 2, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Patients with the skin cancer melanoma who received a combination of two Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. BMY -1.31% immunotherapies in a clinical trial lived an average of more than three years. In another study, about 70% of advanced melanoma patients receiving a Merck MRK +0.12% & Co. immunotherapy were still alive after one year of treatment.
Doctors say the outcomes were impressive because until recently, most patients with advanced melanoma could be expected to live for less than a year.

These findings and others were being presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology add to growing enthusiasm among cancer doctors that immunotherapies could usher in a major advance in treatment not just for melanoma, but also for a range of cancers including those of the lung, bladder and kidney.

For many cancer patients it will be nice to hear that in the last decade the field of immunotherapy has exploded.

New research on innovative immunotherapies for advanced or high-risk melanoma and cervical cancer were presented today at the 50th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).  These treatments – used alone or in combination – fight cancer by activating and amplifying the body’s immune response to the disease.

The new studies find high activity with investigative drugs for advanced melanoma, and show for the first time that ipilimumab, a treatment already approved for advanced melanoma, can substantially decrease the risk of melanoma recurrence in certain patients with earlier-stage disease.  In addition, another small trial reports that a one-time, personalized immunotherapy treatment induces complete and long-lasting remissions in a small number of women with advanced cervical cancer – a disease with little to no effective treatment options.

“The field of immunotherapy has exploded in the last decade, and more and more patients are benefiting,” said press briefing moderator Steven O’Day, MD, ASCO expert and clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine.

“Having a potential new way to keep melanoma at bay is a major advance for patients who live under the constant fear of recurrence after surgery. It’s also incredibly exciting that we’re extending the benefits of immunotherapy beyond melanoma, to diseases like cervical cancer where patients urgently need better options.”

Featured studies include:

  •  Adjuvant ipilimumab improves recurrence-free survival in patients with high-risk stage III melanoma: Study marks the first time adjuvant (post-surgery) ipilimumab is shown to be effective in earlier-stage melanoma, though side effects are considerable. 
  • PD-1 targeting immunotherapy MK-3475 has high and long-lasting activity against metastatic melanoma: Large phase I trial finds high survival rates in patients with advanced melanoma, including those previously treated with ipilimumab; one-year survival rate is 69 percent across all patient subgroups.
  • Combination immunotherapy with ipilimumab and nivolumab achieves long-term survival for patients with advanced melanoma: Updated follow-up data from an expanded phase I study show concurrent treatment with ipilimumab and the anti-PD-1 nivolumab yields strong, long-lasting responses and high survival rates.
  • T helper cell function

    T helper cell function (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    HPV-targeted adoptive T cell therapy may provide a new personalized strategy for advanced cervical cancer: Early study of HPV-targeted immunotherapy shows promising activity in metastatic cervical cancer, a hard-to-treat disease with few effective treatment options.

Media Resources:

  • Online Annual Meeting Media Resource Center: Visit www.asco.org/AMMRC for press releases, press briefing recordings, the press briefing schedule at-a-glance, embargo policies, high-resolution photos, print-friendly downloads, and the Virtual Press Room, an online repository of corporate and institutional press releases from third-party organizations. 
  • CancerProgress.Net: The home of ASCO’s 50th Anniversary and a timeline detailing the progress made against 18 of the most common cancers.

Cancer.Net: ASCO’s cancer information website, providing doctor-approved information on more than 120 cancer types.

  • Long-term results encouraging for combination immunotherapy for advanced melanoma (medicalxpress.com)
    The first long-term follow-up results from a phase 1b immunotherapy trial combining drugs for advanced melanoma patients has shown encouraging results—long-lasting with high survival rates—researchers report. First author Mario Sznol, M.D., professor of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center, is presenting the updated data at the 2014 annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.Sznol, clinical research leader of the melanoma research program at Yale Cancer Center, was the senior author on the original study of combination immunotherapy that was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at ASCO in 2013. Jedd Wolchok, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was first author of the earlier study, and senior author of this updated research.
  • Scientists Prime The Immune System As A Powerful Cancer Weapon (forbes.com)
    Early results showing that genetically modified white blood cells, called T-cells, can make cancer cells disappear, at least temporarily, in 50% to 90% of patients with certain blood cancers that have failed all other treatments have ignited a land grab among drug companies. But until now it’s been uncertain whether the immune system could be weaponized against solid tumors like those in breast, lung, and cervical cancer. Some doubted that the cells could make it into these cancers, which literally build walls of flesh and blood to protect themselves.
  • ‘Miracle’ drug for cancer treatment (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
    The drug, pembrolizumab, is the latest in a new generation of treatments that prevent cancers shielding themselves from the immune system.It was tested on melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – because the prospects for patients with advanced forms of this disease are so bleak.Just under 70% of the 411 patients taking part in the trial were still alive one year after starting on the treatment.

    The result is considered remarkable because all had highly advanced melanoma and a very poor prognosis.

  • Doctors use immune therapy against cervical cancer (host.madison.com)
    Many private companies are pursuing other treatments that are given like drugs aimed at the immune system. Also discussed at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference:—Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy, the first immune therapy to improve survival of advanced, inoperable melanoma, also helped prevent recurrence when given to people with earlier stage disease at regular intervals after surgery, a study of nearly 1,000 patients found. But severe side effects caused half to quit treatment, and five people died from it. Doctors think a lower dose might minimize these problems. The drug also costs more than $100,000 for initial treatment, so long-term cost is a concern.—Nivolumab, an experimental therapy from Bristol-Myers, extended survival by 3 1/2 years on average when given with Yervoy to people with very advanced melanoma, far better than any previous treatments. Nine of 53 patients treated had complete remissions.

    —Merck & Co.’s experimental therapy pembrolizumab gave one-year survival rates of about 69 percent in a study of 411 patients with very advanced melanoma, including many previously treated with Yervoy.

    —Genentech’s experimental immune therapy for bladder cancer shrank tumors in 13 of 30 patients with advanced bladder cancer for which there are hardly any treatment options now. All signs of cancer disappeared in two patients.

    Immune therapy struggled for years with just occasional small gains, but “now we have cruise missiles” giving better kill rates against many tumor types, said Dr. Steven O’Day of the University of Southern California.

    Others tempered their enthusiasm, noting that some promising approaches produced more limited gains once they were more fully researched.

  • Immune therapies improve treatment of cancers (usatoday.com)
    A half dozen experimental trials presented at the ongoing American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago show that researchers are finally making significant progress in both melanoma where therapies began, as well as in other cancers.”The revolution is here, it’s ongoing and it’s bursting out of melanoma into solid tumors,” said Steven O’Day, a melanoma specialist in Beverly Hills, Calif., who helped run a Monday morning news conference. “This meeting is evidence of further progress in melanoma and in other very difficult to treat solid cancers.”
  • Cancer Research Institute Launches TheAnswerToCancer.org, a Website for Cancer Patients and Caregivers (socialmediaportal.com)
    The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) is proud to announce the launch of a first-of-its-kind website devoted to cancer immunotherapy, also called immuno-oncology, designed specifically for cancer patients and their caregivers, TheAnswerToCancer.org.”As major advances in cancer immunotherapy begin to alter the landscape of cancer treatment, patients facing a cancer diagnosis need to be aware of immunotherapy as a potential treatment option for them,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute. “Our new website, TheAnswerToCancer.org, informs patients about these new treatments, and encourages them to talk with their doctors about immunotherapy.”Through TheAnswerToCancer.org, CRI seeks to engage, educate, and empower patients and their loved ones to learn more about cancer immunotherapy as a treatment option across numerous tumor types. The site provides a robust but accessible overview of the science behind cancer immunotherapy, detailed information about cancer immunotherapy clinical trials, and voices from the cancer immunotherapy community.
  • Doctors use immunotherapy against cervical cancer (sfgate.com)
    Two years ago, Arrica Wallace was riddled with tumors from widely spread cervical cancer that the strongest chemotherapy and radiation could not beat back. Today, the Kansas mother shows no signs of the disease, and it was her own immune system that made it go away.The experimental approach that helped her is one of the newest frontiers in the rapidly advancing field of cancer immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s natural ways of attacking tumors.
    +
    Among those discussed at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference was an experimental therapy from Genentech that shrank tumors in 13 of 30 patients with advanced bladder cancer, for which there are hardly any treatment options now. All signs of cancer disappeared in two patients.
  • Immunotherapy an Effective Tool in Fighting Cervical Cancer (modvive.com)
    Aarica Wallace of Manhattan, Kansas spoke with The Associated Press about the cervical cancer that almost took her life. Wallace was 35 when her cervical cancer was discovered, and spreading widely, with one tumor was so large it blocked half of her windpipe. Given less than a year to live, and with two young sons, Wallace didn’t give up hope. ”It’s been 22 months since treatment and 17 months of completely clean scans” showing no sign of cancer, Wallace told the Associated Press.
  • New ‘immunotherapy’ treatments show dramatic progress in fight against cervical cancer (rawstory.com)
    The idea behind HPV-targeted adoptive T-cell therapy is to boost the body’s immune response to HPV in the tumors.
    +
    The technique is still a long way from becoming everyday practice in medicine, and researchers have yet to figure out why it works in some but not in others.“With the refinement of adoptive T-cell therapy and reduction of potential significant side effects, this can offer hope for improvement of survival for patients with advanced cervical cancers,” said Linus Chang, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Chang was not involved in the study.Cervical cancer infects some 530,000 women each year and kills more than 270,000 around the globe, with most deaths occurring in the developing world, according to the World Health Organization.

    Despite the rapid and complete responses that two of his patients have seen, Hinrichs said it is far too early to declare them cured.

    But Wallace said she does not care about the terminology.

    “You can’t argue with the scans,” she told AFP.

    “It’s not there and I feel good. I don’t have to hear the word ‘cure.’”

  • Immunotherapy Drug Data Show Promise in Treating Cancer (live.wsj.com) Video
    Drugs designed to unleash the body’s own immune system against cancer are significantly prolonging the lives of some people with hard-to-treat forms of the deadly disease. WSJ’s Jeanne Whalen joins Tanya Rivero on Lunch Break to explain.

 

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