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Antonious Hazim, Gordon Mills, Vinay Prasad, Alyson Haslam and Emerson Y. Chen

Background: As progress continues in oncology drug development, this study aimed to examine whether the previously established association between drug dose and efficacy in the era of cytotoxic therapies remains true in today’s phase I dose-escalation oncology trials. Methods: A systematic review of early-phase dose-finding trials of single-agent oncology drugs from 2015 to 2018 was conducted to examine the relationship between drug dose and objective responses. Cancer-specific trials were included if they determined maximum tolerated dose (MTD) and/or recommended phase II dose (RP2D). Data related to the study drug, study design, treatment response, cancer type, dose levels, MTD, and RP2D were all collected. Dose level was categorized into 4 categories (≤40%, 41%–80%, 81%–120%, and >120% of the RP2D) and was further analyzed by class of drug. Results: A total of 175 phase I studies were identified, with a total of 7,330 patients showing a median response rate of 5% (range, 0%–83%) across trials. A total of 93 trials with 2,506 participants had response data corresponding to drug dose level. In this subset, the median response rate was 5% (range, 0%–83%) across trials. Across all participants in this subset, the response rate was 12% (57 of 491) among those in the dose range of ≤40% of RP2D, 17% (95 of 562) among those in 41% to 80% of RP2D, 23% (272 of 1,206) among those in 81% to 120% of RP2D, and 29% (71 of 247) among those in >120% of RP2D (P<.001). The response rate at ≤40% of RP2D for targeted antibody was 5%, 4% for cellular therapy, 19% for immunotherapy, and 21% for small-molecule targeted inhibitors. Conclusions: Whereas our study of published phase I trials continued to show a low response rate consistent with earlier studies, the relationship between response and dose does not always peak at 81% to 120% of RP2D anymore, likely due to the use of novel immunotherapy and targeted agents with distinct efficacy and toxicity patterns.

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Paul S. White, Michael Dennis, Eric A. Jones, Janice M. Weinberg and Shayna Sarosiek

Background: This retrospective analysis describes the prevalence of and risk factors associated with the development of hypocalcemia in patients with cancer receiving bone-modifying agents (BMAs) as supportive care. Patients and Methods: Patients with cancer treated with an intravenous or subcutaneous BMA, including pamidronate, zoledronic acid, or denosumab, at a tertiary care/safety net hospital in 2005 through 2015 were included in this retrospective review. We reviewed the medical records for predictive clinical and laboratory parameters and for patient outcomes. Results: A total of 835 patients with cancer received at least one dose of a BMA during the specified time frame; 205 patients (25%) developed hypocalcemia of CTCAE grade ≥1 within 8 weeks of BMA initiation, 18 of whom (8.8%) had grade ≥3, and 3 patients died as a result. Multivariate analysis showed that patients with hematologic malignancy (odds ratio [OR], 1.956; P=.025), bone metastases (OR, 2.443; P=.017), inpatient status (OR, 2.592; P<.001), and deficient baseline vitamin D levels (OR, 2.546; P<.023) were more likely to develop hypocalcemia. Hypercalcemia before BMA administration (OR, 0.474; P=.032) was protective. Conclusions: Certain patient populations, including those with hematologic malignancies and/or bone metastases, warrant closer monitoring of calcium levels while receiving BMAs because of the high rate of hypocalcemia. Low pretreatment vitamin D levels are associated with the development of hypocalcemia. These data support close monitoring of calcium levels in patients with cancer receiving BMAs, in addition to adequate repletion of vitamin D before initiation of BMAs when possible.

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Tanya E. Keenan and Sara M. Tolaney

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have led to durable clinical remissions in many metastatic cancers. However, the single-agent efficacy of ICIs in breast cancer is low, including in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), which has several key characteristics that enhance ICI responses. Strategies to improve anticancer immune responses in TNBC are urgently needed to extend survival for patients with metastatic disease. This review presents ICI monotherapy response rates and discusses combination strategies with chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and novel immunotherapies. It concludes with a summary of immunotherapy biomarkers in TNBC and a call to action for future directions of research critical to advancing the efficacy of immunotherapy for patients with TNBC.

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Laurie Elit, Gregory R. Pond and Mark N. Levine

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Terrell Johnson, Lindsey A.M. Bandini, Kara Martin, Lee Jones, Jennifer Carlson, Ronald S. Walters and Robert W. Carlson

Health policy in America has shifted rapidly over the last decade, and states are increasingly exercising greater authority over health policy decision-making. This localization and regionalization of healthcare policy poses significant challenges for patients with cancer, providers, advocates, and policymakers. To identify the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead of stakeholders, NCCN hosted the 2019 Policy Summit: The State of Cancer Care in America on June 27, 2019, in Washington, DC. The summit featured multidisciplinary panel discussions to explore the implications for access to quality cancer care within a shifting health policy landscape from a patient, provider, and lawmaker perspective. This article encapsulates the discussion from this NCCN Policy Summit.

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Daniel C. McFarland, Devika R. Jutagir, Andrew H. Miller, William Breitbart, Christian Nelson and Barry Rosenfeld

Background: Patients with lung cancer with greater systemic inflammation have higher rates of depression. Tumor mutation burden (TMB) predicts immunotherapy response in patients with lung cancer and is associated with intratumoral inflammation, which may contribute to systemic inflammation and depression. This study evaluated whether higher TMB was associated with increased depression and systemic inflammation in patients with lung cancer. Patients and Methods: Patients with metastatic lung cancers were evaluated for depression severity using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. TMB was measured using the Memorial Sloan Kettering-Integrated Mutation Profiling of Actionable Cancer Targets. Inflammation was evaluated using C-reactive protein (CRP) level and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR). Results: A total of 96 patients with adequate TMB testing were evaluated. The average number of mutations (TMB) was 10.8 (SD, 10.9). A total of 19% of patients endorsed clinically significant depression symptoms. TMB was significantly correlated with depression severity (r = 0.34; P=.001) and NLR (r = 0.37; P=.002) but not CRP level (r = 0.19; P=.07). TMB was also higher in patients receiving chemotherapy (mean, 12.0) and immunotherapy (mean, 14.4) versus targeted therapy (mean, 4.8). A multivariate model found that TMB (β = 0.30; P=.01) and CRP level (β = 0.31; P=.01) were independently associated with depression; there was no significant interaction effect of TMB × CRP and depression. A similar multivariate model showed no independent effect for NLR and depression (β = 0.16; P=.17) after accounting for TMB. Conclusions: These data provide evidence for biologic depression risk in patients with lung cancer who have high levels of TMB. The underlying mechanism of the association is not clearly related to inflammation but warrants further analysis to broadly elucidate the mechanism of biologically derived depression in cancer.

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Natasha Hunter, Sarah Croessmann, Karen Cravero, Daniel Shinn, Paula J. Hurley and Ben Ho Park

The ability to serially monitor tumor-derived cell-free DNA (cfDNA) brings with it the potential to measure response to anticancer therapies and detect minimal residual disease (MRD). This report describes a patient with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer with an exceptional response to trastuzumab and nab-paclitaxel who remains in complete remission several years after cessation of therapy. Next-generation sequencing of the patient’s primary tumor tissue showed several mutations, including an oncogenic hotspot PIK3CA mutation. A sample of cfDNA was collected 6 years after her last therapy and then analyzed for mutant PIK3CA using digital PCR. No detectable mutations associated with the primary tumor were found despite assaying >10,000 genome equivalents, suggesting that the patient had achieved a molecular remission. Results of this case study suggest that serial monitoring of MRD using liquid biopsies could provide a useful method for individualizing treatment plans for patients with metastatic disease with extreme responses to therapy. However, large-scale clinical studies are needed to validate and implement these techniques for patient care.

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Chaohui Guo, Matthew Prime, Vishakha Sharma and Marc Mailman

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Naresh Ramarajan, CS Pramesh, Gitika Srivastava, Vikas Ostwal, Anant Ramaswamy, Aju Mathew, Mahesh Goel, Supriya Chopra, BJ Sunil, Durgatosh Pandey, Rajendra A. Badwe and Bhawna Sirohi