An immunotherapy medication shows promise for aggressive lung cancer.
The immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab has demonstrated a favorable safety profile and “promising durable clinical activity” in pretreated patients who exhibit high levels of the PD-L1 protein in advanced stages of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) – an aggressive form of the disease. That is according to data from a phase 1b clinical trial conducted by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey investigators and colleagues at centers around the world. The work appears in the current online edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology (doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.72.5069).
“Immunotherapy drugs put the body’s natural defenses back to work by targeting the PD-L1 protein and PD-1 receptor and blocking their ability to prevent T cells from destroying cancer cells. Pembrolizumab has shown anti-tumor activity in advanced malignancies including melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. With treatment options for SCLC patients receiving platinum-based therapies becoming limited when their disease progresses, it is imperative to explore new therapy options for this population,” notes the work’s senior investigator Janice M. Mehnert, MD, director of the Phase 1/Investigational Therapeutics Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute.
From March 2014 to May 2015, 157 patients with extensive-stage SCLC were screened from multiple international sites. Of that number, 24 patients with tumors having a large presence of the PD-L1 protein who were previously treated with platinum-based therapy were enrolled in the trial. Participants received 10mg of pembrolizumab every two weeks for 24 months or until confirmed disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Safety, tolerability and response were assessed every eight weeks for the first six months and every 12 weeks thereafter. Median follow-up duration was 9.8 months.
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