Immune therapy scores big win against lung cancer in study
Cshow whether it prolongs life.
The new study, led by Dr. Leena Gandhi of NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, gives that proof. In it, 616 patients were given chemo and some also received Keytruda. Those not given Keytruda were allowed to switch to it if their cancer worsened.
After one year, 69 percent of people originally assigned to Keytruda were alive versus 49 percent of the others — a result that experts called remarkable considering that the second group’s survival was improved because half of them wound up switching.
How much it ultimately will extend life isn’t known — more than half in the Keytruda group are still alive; median survival was just over 11 months for the others.
The Keytruda combo also delayed the time until cancer worsened — an average of nine months versus five months for the chemo-only group.
That’s a big difference for such an advanced cancer, said Dr. Alice Shaw, a Massachusetts General Hospital lung cancer expert and one of the conference leaders. “This is really a pivotal study ... a new standard of care,” said Shaw, who has no ties to the drugmakers.
Rates of serious side effects were similar, but twice as many in the Keytruda group dropped out because of them. More than 4 percent of that group developed lung inflammation and three patients died of it.
Dr. Matthew Hellmann of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York led a study testing the Opdivo-Yervoy combo versus chemo in a slightly different group of newly diagnosed advanced lung cancer patients.
The study design was changed after it was underway to look at results according to patients’ tumor mutation burden — a measure of how flawed their cancer genes are, according to a profiling test by Foundation Medicine. Medicare recently agreed to cover the $3,000 test for advanced cancers.
Of 679 patients, 299 had a high number of gene flaws in their tumors. In that group, survival without worsening of disease was 43 percent after one year for those on the immunotherapy drugs versus 13 percent of those on chemo. The immunotherapy drugs did not help people with fewer tumor gene flaws.
“We have a tool that helps us determine who are the patients that are most likely to benefit from this combination,” Hellmann said.
The median time until cancer worsened was about 7 months on the immunotherapy drugs versus 5.5 months for chemo. Serious side effects were a little more common in the chemo group.
Another rival, Genentech, recently announced that its checkpoint inhibitor, Tecentriq, improved survival in a study similar to the one testing Keytruda. Details are expected in a couple months.
HICAGO (AP) — For the first time, a treat ment that boosts the immune system greatly improved survival in people newly diagnosed with the most common form of lung cancer. It’s the biggest win so far for immunotherapy, which has had much of its success until now in less common cancers.