Are results from immunotherapy in lung cancer durable?

AACR 2017 meeting immunotherapy lung cancer

Are responses to immunotherapy for lung cancer durable?

Now that a plethora of clinical trials have established positive responses from immunotherapies—immune checkpoint inhibitors, in particular—in patients with a variety of cancer types, one of the logical next questions is, are the responses durable?

According to data presented on April 3,2017 from a number of clinical trials across an array of cancer types, the answer appears to be “Yes.” For many patients whose cancers responded to treatment with an immune checkpoint inhibitor, particularly those that target the immune checkpoint proteins PD1 and PDL1, the responses appeared to have lasted for several years.

Five-year survival in patients with advanced lung cancer treated with nivolumab higher than historical rates

In a phase I clinical trial, CA209-003, patients with heavily pretreated, advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were randomly assigned to three different dose levels of the anti-PD1 immunotherapeutic nivolumab (Opdivo). Prior analysis of data from this trial showed that nivolumab had promising clinical activity in this patient population.

Data presented showed that after following 129 patients in this phase I trial for a minimum of about 58 months, overall survival rates in patients with squamous and non-squamous NSCLC were 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively. According to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER data, the five-year survival rate for patients with advanced lung and bronchus cancer is 4.3 percent, and for those with advanced NSCLC, it is 4.9 percent.

“This is the first report of the long-term survival rate in patients with metastatic NSCLC treated with an immune checkpoint inhibitor. Our study results show that for a small subset of patients, immunotherapy can work for a very long time,” said the study’s lead author Julie Brahmer, MD, associate professor of oncology at the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins.

David Gobin, a retired police officer who entered this clinical trial in late 2010 after multiple rounds of prior treatment of his advanced lung cancer, including two surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapies, continues to benefit from nivolumab.

“Every day I have my feet on the grass is a good day,” Gobin said in an interview. “I was in the right place at the right time. I will always have cancer, but you know what, I can live with it.”

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