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Jun Gong, Chongkai Wang, Peter P. Lee, Peiguo Chu and Marwan Fakih

Recent clinical evidence has demonstrated that microsatellite instability (MSI) or defective mismatch repair (MMR) and high tumor mutational load can predict response to the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) receptor inhibitor pembrolizumab in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Mutations in polymerase ε (POLE), a DNA polymerase involved in DNA replication and repair, contribute to an ultramutated but microsatellite stable (MSS) phenotype in colorectal tumors that is uniquely distinct from MSI tumors. This report presents the first case in the literature describing a clinical response to pembrolizumab in an 81-year-old man with treatment-refractory mCRC characterized by an MSS phenotype and POLE mutation identified on genomic profiling by next-generation sequencing. On tumor immunostaining, a large amount of CD8-positive tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) were present, with >90% of these expressing PD-1. More than 99% of PD-L1 expression was identified on nontumor cells in the tumor microenvironment that were close to the PD-1–positive CD8 TILs. mCRC tumors harboring POLE mutations represent a hypermutated phenotype that may predict response to anti–PD-1 therapy.

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Justin A. Chen, Naseem Esteghamat, Edward J. Kim, Gabriel Garcia, Jun Gong, Marwan G. Fakih, Richard J. Bold and May T. Cho

Immune checkpoint inhibitors represent a newly established standard of care in patients with refractory metastatic colorectal cancer with mismatch repair deficiency and microsatellite instability. However, the use of immunotherapy is unclear in recipients of liver transplants with or without concurrent liver function abnormalities. Clinical trials investigating immunotherapy have mostly excluded liver transplant recipients and patients with abnormal liver function. This report presents the first case, to our knowledge, of a liver transplant patient with mismatch repair–deficient colon adenocarcinoma with liver metastases and concurrent abnormal liver function who safely responded to immunotherapy. We also review the literature on checkpoint inhibitor use in patients with other metastatic solid tumors after liver transplant and those with baseline liver function abnormalities. An increasing body of evidence supports the safety of checkpoint inhibition in patients with cancer and solid organ transplants, but further prospective studies are warranted. Use of immunotherapy in liver transplant recipients who have metastatic colorectal cancer with microsatellite instability is feasible but should be performed in a multidisciplinary team setting.

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Michelle Guan, Gillian Gresham, Arvind Shinde, Isaac Lapite, Jun Gong, Veronica R. Placencio-Hickok, Christopher B. Forrest and Andrew E. Hendifar

Background: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is associated with high symptom burden. However, treatment decisions currently depend heavily on physician interpretation of clinical parameters and may not consider patients’ health preferences. The NIH Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) initiative standardized a set of patient-reported outcomes for use in chronic diseases. This study identifies preference rankings among patients with PDAC and physicians for PROMIS domains and compares the priorities of patients and their providers. Methods: We condensed the 96 NIH PROMIS adult domains into 31 domains and created a Maximum Difference Scaling questionnaire. Domain preference scores were generated from the responses of patients with PDAC and physicians, which were compared using Maximum Difference Scaling software across demographic and clinical variables. Results: Participants included 135 patients with PDAC (53% male; median age, 68 years) and 54 physicians (76% male; median years of experience, 10). Patients selected physical functioning (PF) as their top priority, whereas physicians identified pain as most important. PF, ability to perform activities of daily living, and symptom management were within the top 5 domains for both patients and physicians, and varied only slightly across age, sex, and ethnicity. However, several domains were ranked significantly higher by patients than by physicians, including but not limited to PF; ability to do things for yourself, family, and friends; ability to interact with others to obtain help; and sleep quality. Physicians ranked pain, anxiety, and depression higher than patients did. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that patients with PDAC value PF and engaging in daily and social activities the most, whereas physicians prioritize symptoms such as pain. Patient-reported outcomes need to become more integrated into PDAC care and research to better identify unmet patient needs, inform treatment decisions, and develop therapies that address outcomes valued by patients.

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Rahel Demisse, Neha Damle, Edward Kim, Jun Gong, Marwan Fakih, Cathy Eng, Leslie Oesterich, Madison McKenny, Jingran Ji, James Liu, Ryan Louie, Kit Tam, Sepideh Gholami, Wissam Halabi, Arta Monjazeb, Farshid Dayyani and May Cho

Treatment options for locally advanced rectal cancer have continued to consist largely of chemotherapy, chemoradiation, and/or surgical resection. For patients who are unable to undergo these therapeutic modalities or who do not to experience a response to them, treatment options are limited. We report 3 cases of mismatch repair–deficient (dMMR) locally advanced adenocarcinoma of the rectum that showed significant response with neoadjuvant immunotherapy–based systemic treatment. The first patient was not eligible for standard therapy because of a history of radiotherapy to the prostate with concurrent comorbidities and therefore received single-agent pembrolizumab. The second patient did not respond to total neoadjuvant chemoradiation and subsequently received combined nivolumab and ipilimumab. The third patient had a known family history of Lynch syndrome and presented with locally advanced rectal cancer and a baseline carcinoembryonic antigen level of 1,566 ng/mL. She was treated using neoadjuvant pembrolizumab and FOLFOX (folinic acid, fluorouracil, oxaliplatin). In this small series, we suggest that single-agent and combined-modality neoadjuvant immunotherapy/chemotherapy appear to be safe and effective treatment options for patients with (dMMR) locally advanced rectal cancer. Our findings encourage further studies to investigate the role of neoadjuvant immunotherapy as a viable treatment strategy in this population.

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Ju Dong Yang, Michael Luu, Amit G. Singal, Mazen Noureddin, Alexander Kuo, Walid S. Ayoub, Vinay Sundaram, Honore Kotler, Irene K. Kim, Tsuyoshi Todo, Georgios Voidonikolas, Todd V. Brennan, Kambiz Kosari, Andrew S. Klein, Andrew Hendifar, Shelly C. Lu, Nicholas N. Nissen and Jun Gong

Background: It remains unknown to what extent hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) are detected very early (T1 stage; ie, unifocal <2 cm) in the United States. The aim of this study was to investigate the trends and factors associated with very early detection of HCC and resultant outcomes. Methods: Patients with HCC diagnosed from 2004 through 2014 were identified from the National Cancer Database. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with T1 HCC detection, and Cox proportional hazard analyses identified factors associated with overall survival among patients with T1 HCC. Results: Of 110,182 eligible patients, the proportion with T1 HCC increased from 2.6% in 2004 to 6.8% in 2014 (P<.01). The strongest correlate of T1 HCC detection was receipt of care at an academic institution (odds ratio, 3.51; 95% CI, 2.31–5.34). Older age, lack of insurance, high Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, high alpha-fetoprotein, increased Charlson-Deyo comorbidity score, and nonsurgical treatment were associated with increased mortality, and care at an academic center (hazard ratio [HR], 0.27; 95% CI, 0.15–0.48) was associated with reduced mortality in patients with T1 HCC. Liver transplantation (HR, 0.27; 95% CI, 0.20–0.37) and surgical resection (HR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.48–0.93) were independently associated with improved survival compared with ablation. This is the first study to examine the trend of T1 HCC using the National Cancer Database, which covers approximately 70% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States, using robust statistical analyses. Limitations of the study include a retrospective study design using administrative data and some pertinent data that were not available. Conclusions: Despite increases over time, <10% of HCCs are detected at T1 stage. The strongest correlates of survival among patients with T1 HCC are receiving care at an academic institution and surgical treatment.