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Compound Kushen Injection Reduces Severe Toxicity and Symptom Burden Associated With Curative Radiotherapy in Patients With Lung Cancer

Jie Liu, Qingxi Yu, Xin Shelley Wang, Qiuling Shi, Jun Wang, Fan Wang, Simeng Ren, Jiayue Jin, Baojin Han, Wenzheng Zhang, Xueyao Su, Shuanghu Yuan, and Hongsheng Lin

Background: Radiotherapy (RT) causes adverse events for which there are no effective treatments. This study investigated the clinical benefits of compound Kushen injection (CKI) in managing radiation injury in patients with lung cancer. Methods: A multicenter, open-label, randomized clinical trial randomly assigned patients with lung cancer to receive either CKI (20 mL/d for at least 4 weeks) integrated with curative RT (RT + CKI group; n=130) or RT alone (control group; n=130). The primary outcome was the incidence of grade ≥2 radiation-induced lung injury (RILI) in the lungs, esophagus, or heart. Secondary outcomes included patient-reported symptoms, quality of life, objective response rate (ORR), and toxic effects. Results: During the 16-week trial, the RT + CKI group had a significantly lower incidence of grade ≥2 RT-related injury than the control group (12.3% [n=16] vs 23.1% [n=30]; P=.02). Compared with the control group, the RT + CKI group experienced a significant decrease in moderate-to-severe symptoms of fatigue, cough, and pain (P<.001 for the treatment and time interaction term); significantly less physical symptom interference (P=.01); and significantly better quality of life by the end of the trial (P<.05). No statistically significant difference in ORR was found. Adverse reactions associated with CKI were rare. Conclusions: This study demonstrated low toxicity of CKI and its effectiveness in patients with lung cancer in reducing the incidence of grade ≥2 RILI and symptom burden, improving patients' quality of life.

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Ensuring Diversity and Inclusion in Clinical Development by Leveraging Community Oncology Centers

Joshua Richter, Stephen J. Noga, and Robert Rifkin

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Hematologic Malignancy: Who Cares in the End? A Retrospective Cohort Study of Markers of Quality End-of-Life Care

Briony Shaw, Catriona Parker, Stephen Opat, Jake Shortt, and Peter Poon

Background: Early palliative care is increasingly used in solid organ malignancy but is less established in patients with hematologic malignancy. Disease-related factors increase the demand for hospitalization, treatment, and supportive care in patients with hematologic malignancy. The terminal phase of illness in patients with hematologic malignancy can be difficult to predict, resulting in complexities in establishing a standard for quality end-of-life care. Methods: This is a retrospective single-center cohort study of adult patients with hematologic malignancy who died between October 2019 and July 2022. Patients were identified, and disease characteristics, therapy, and outcomes were extracted from medical records. Descriptive statistics are reported and univariate analyses were performed across a range of factors to assess for associations. Results: A total of 229 patients were identified, with a median age of 77 years and 35% female. In the final 30 days of life, 65% presented to the emergency department, 22% had an ICU admission, 22% had an invasive procedure, 48% received cytotoxic therapy, 61% received a RBC transfusion, and 46% received a platelet transfusion. Use of intensive chemotherapy was particularly associated with hospitalization and ICU admission. A total of 74% referred to palliative care, with a median time from referral to death of 13 days. Of these patients, one-third were referred within the last 5 days of life. In terms of place of death, 54% died in the acute hospital setting and 30% in hospice, with a median hospice length of stay of 4 days. Conclusions: These findings highlight the need for further research into quality indicators for end of life in hematologic malignancy and earlier integration of specialist supportive and palliative care in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

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Highlights of the NCCN Oncology Research Program

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NCCN Guidelines® Insights: Survivorship, Version 1.2023

Featured Updates to the NCCN Guidelines

Tara Sanft, Andrew Day, Shannon Ansbaugh, Saro Armenian, K. Scott Baker, Tara Ballinger, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Kristin Dickinson, Nathan Paul Fairman, Josephine Felciano, Tessa Faye Flores, Debra L. Friedman, Nicolette M. Gabel, Mindy Goldman, Norah Lynn Henry, Christine Hill-Kayser, Melissa Hudson, Divya Koura, Kimberly Lee, Allison L. McDonough, Michelle Melisko, Kathi Mooney, Halle C.F. Moore, Natalie Moryl, Heather Neuman, Tracey O’Connor, Linda Overholser, Electra D. Paskett, Chirayu Patel, Lindsay Peterson, William Pirl, Andrea Porpiglia, M. Alma Rodriguez, Lidia Schapira, Anna L. Schwartz, Sophia Smith, Amye Tevaarwerk, Eric Yang, Phyllis Zee, Nicole R. McMillian, and Deborah A. Freedman-Cass

The NCCN Guidelines for Survivorship are intended to help healthcare professionals address the complex and varied needs of cancer survivors. The NCCN Guidelines provide screening, evaluation, and treatment recommendations for psychosocial and physical problems resulting from adult-onset cancer and its treatment; recommendations to help promote healthy behaviors and immunizations in survivors; and a framework for care coordination. These NCCN Guidelines Insights summarize recent guideline updates and panel discussions pertaining to sleep disorders, fatigue, and cognitive function in cancer survivors.

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NCCN News

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Pancreatitis and Hyperlipasemia in the Setting of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy

Matthew J. Townsend, Mofei Liu, Anita Giobbie-Hurder, Jordan S. Sack, Nicole R. LeBoeuf, F. Stephen Hodi, Julia McNabb-Baltar, and Shilpa Grover

Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitor–induced pancreatic injury (ICI-PI) ranges from asymptomatic hyperlipasemia to symptomatic acute pancreatitis (AP). The proportion of pancreatic injury while receiving ICIs that is attributable to therapy remains unclear. We evaluated the etiology of hyperlipasemia in patients receiving ICIs, and the clinical characteristics, management, and outcomes of ICI-PI. Patients and Methods: We assessed 6,450 consecutive adult patients with cancer who received ICI doses between 2011 and 2019, 364 of whom had at least 1 instance of elevated serum lipase after ICI initiation and were included in our trial. Primary outcomes were the development of ICI-PI and ICI–induced acute pancreatitis (ICI-AP). Results: Pancreatic injury was attributable to ICI use in 105 individuals (29% of those with hyperlipasemia; 1.6% overall). Of 27 patients with ICI-AP, 4 (15%) presented asymptomatically with hyperlipasemia and pancreatic inflammation on imaging. In multivariable regression, the presence of other immune-related adverse events was positively associated with ICI-AP (≥2 events: odds ratio, 5.43; 95% CI, 1.47–26.03). Compared with patients with other ICI-PI, those with ICI-AP more frequently required steroids (74% vs 4%), intravenous fluids (85% vs 10%), hospitalization (89% vs 9%), and permanent cessation of ICIs due to pancreatic injury (70% vs 3%), and less frequently continued therapy uninterrupted (0% vs 40%) (P<.01 for all). Of the 105 patients, 3 (3%) developed exocrine insufficiency and 9 (9%) developed endocrine insufficiency, which were concentrated among those with ICI-AP. Conclusions: A minority of occurrences of pancreatitis and hyperlipasemia in patients receiving ICIs are due to these therapies, supporting NCCN recommendations to exclude alternative etiologies. Because a notable proportion of patients with ICI-AP were asymptomatic but warranted treatment per current guidelines, abdominal imaging is diagnostically valuable in those with significant hyperlipasemia. Patients with ICI-AP should be monitored for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Many with hyperlipasemia who do not meet the criteria for AP can continue therapy uninterrupted.

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Real-World Treatment Patterns in Patients With HER2-Amplified Metastatic Colorectal Cancer: A Clinical-Genomic Database Study

John H. Strickler, Ling-I Hsu, Phoebe Wright, Michael Stecher, Muriel F. Siadak, Maria Corinna Palanca-Wessels, Junhua Yu, Nicole Zhang, Carin R. Espenschied, Kathryn Lang, and Tanios S. Bekaii-Saab

Background: HER2 amplification (HER2+) occurs in approximately 3% of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Despite the recent addition of HER2-directed therapies to treatment recommendations in the NCCN Guidelines, until more recently there were no FDA-approved treatments. This study examined real-world treatment patterns in patients with HER2+ mCRC in the United States before and after the emerging awareness of HER2-directed therapies in 2018. Methods: This was a retrospective observational study of patients with HER2+ mCRC from the GuardantINFORM database, which contains claims data for patients with Guardant360 genomic testing results. Patients were aged ≥18 years, were diagnosed with mCRC between January 2014 and September 2020, and had confirmed ERBB2 amplification via the blood-based Guardant360 test. Treatment patterns and real-world time to next treatment (rwTTNT) were evaluated. Results: This study included 142 patients with a median age of 59 years; 31 (21.8%) patients with ERBB2 amplifications also had ERBB2 mutations. Treatment patterns were heterogeneous and evolved over time; before 2018, the most common regimen prescribed after detection of ERBB2 amplification was anti-VEGF therapy with or without chemotherapy (31.6%; n=25), and after 2018, HER2-directed therapies were the most commonly prescribed (36.5%; n=23). Median rwTTNT among the overall cohort was 8.4 months (95% CI, 6.5–10.0); rwTTNT was numerically longer in patients who received HER2-directed therapy compared with those who received non–HER2-directed therapies (11.0 months [95% CI, 6.3–12.3] vs 7.2 months [95% CI, 5.8–9.6]). Conclusions: This real-world study of the largest clinically annotated dataset of patients with HER2+ mCRC showed that many patients do not receive HER2-directed therapy despite its inclusion in NCCN Guidelines, with heterogeneous treatment patterns suggesting that standard of care remains undefined and targeted therapy remains underutilized. Greater awareness of the unmet need in this patient population, together with new effective therapies, will facilitate strategies for improved, targeted treatment approaches.

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Understanding Causes of Inferior Outcomes in Adolescents and Young Adults With Cancer

Julie A. Wolfson, Kelly M. Kenzik, Blake Foxworthy, John M. Salsman, Katherine Donahue, Marie Nelson, Mary Beth Littrell, Grant R. Williams, and Jennifer M. Levine

Individuals diagnosed with cancer as adolescents and young adults (AYAs; ages 15–39 years) face unique vulnerabilities. Compared with individuals diagnosed when younger (≤14 years) or older (≥40 years), AYAs have not seen the same improvement in survival. Furthermore, they sit at a complex moment of social, emotional, and cognitive development, and have a unique interface with the healthcare system. With these observations, NCI prioritized addressing the unique vulnerabilities among AYAs with cancer, and NCCN developed guidelines regarding optimal AYA cancer care. Improvements in certain locales have been seen in the wake of this focus on AYAs, suggesting that continuing to consider AYA outcomes in the context of their specific needs is critical as we strive toward additional improvements. However, it is key to consider the drivers of these outcomes to continue this trajectory. This review presents a holistic conceptual model that includes factors that influence outcomes among AYAs with cancer, including domains in these levels that influence both clinical outcomes (such as relapse and survival) and health-related quality of life (HRQoL). These include domains at the patient level, such as social constructs (race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status), behavior (adherence, risk-taking), biologic characteristics (cancer biology, host genetics), medical treatment (treatment regimen, risk-based survivorship care), and treatment-related toxicities. The model also includes domains at the system level, which include treatment location (NCI designation, facility model, AYA program presence), clinical trial enrollment, transdisciplinary communication, fertility preservation, and psychosocial support. Recognizing these multiple factors at the level of the individual and the healthcare system influence AYA outcomes (from HRQoL to survival), it is key not only to consider patient-level interventions and development of novel cancer agents but also to develop systems-level interventions that can be executed in parallel. In this way, the impact can be expanded to a vast number of AYAs.

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An Unexpected Diagnosis Uncovered by Quantitative Molecular Findings: A Case Report

Alessia Buglioni, Ruifeng Guo, Kandelaria M. Rumilla, Mark A. Edgar, Svetomir N. Markovic, and Gang Zheng

A 74-year-old male presented with rectal pain; workup uncovered an anal mass, and a diagnosis of melanoma was rendered via histologic examination and immunohistochemical (IHC) studies. Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR)–based BRAF testing was performed and revealed the presence of BRAF V600E, which is a common targetable genetic alteration in melanoma. Interestingly, the ratio of mutant to wild-type copy number was low (0.3%), whereas tumor cell percentage on tissue slides was 90%. With additional workup, BRAF V600E IHC confirmed a very small subset of BRAF V600E–positive cells, and a next-generation sequencing (NGS) panel revealed a pathogenic KIT variant, p.L576P, with an allele frequency of 63%. It was initially hypothesized that the main driver of the melanoma was the KIT alteration, whereas a small subclone (not detected by NGS, which has a 5% limit of detection) was driven by the BRAF V600E detected by ddPCR. To determine whether there were morphologic differences between the 2 clones, a careful review of the histology was performed and revealed distinct morphology of the BRAF V600E–positive cells, including pale cytoplasm, nuclear grooves, and infiltrating eosinophils. Additional IHC workup of the BRAF V600E–positive cells showed coexpression of CD1a, Langerin, and S100, diagnostic of Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH). This diagnosis was unexpected and would have been missed without highly sensitive molecular testing; yet it is of clinical importance for the patient. This case raises interesting biology questions regarding the relationship between melanoma and LCH; moreover, it highlights the importance of integrating quantitative information in molecular data interpretation.