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Three-year survival, correlates and salvage therapies in patients receiving first-line pembrolizumab for advanced Merkel cell carcinoma

J Immunother Cancer

2021 Shailender Bhatia; Nirasha Ramchurren; Michi Shinohara; Martin Cheever; Paul Nghiem; Steven Fling

BACKGROUND: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive skin cancer associated with poor survival. Programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) pathway inhibitors have shown high rates of durable tumor regression compared with chemotherapy for MCC. The current study was undertaken to assess baseline and on-treatment factors associated with MCC regression and 3-year survival, and to explore the effects of salvage therapies in patients experiencing initial non-response or tumor progression after response or stable disease following first-line pembrolizumab therapy on Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network-09/KEYNOTE-017. METHODS: In this multicenter phase II trial, 50 patients with advanced unresectable MCC received pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg every 3 weeks for 2 years. Patients were followed for a median of 31.8 months. RESULTS: Overall response rate to pembrolizumab was 58% (complete response 30%+partial response 28%; 95%CI 43.2 to 71.8). Among 29 responders, the median response duration was not reached (NR) at 3 years (range 1.0+ to 51.8+ months). Median progression-free survival (PFS) was 16.8 months (95%CI 4.6 to 43.4) and the 3-year PFS was 39.1%. Median OS was NR; the 3-year OS was 59.4% for all patients and 89.5% for responders. Baseline Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0, greater per cent tumor reduction, completion of 2 years of treatment and low neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio were associated with response and longer survival. Among patients with initial disease progression or those who developed progression after response or stable disease, some had extended survival with subsequent treatments including chemotherapies and immunotherapies. CONCLUSIONS: This study represents the longest available follow-up from any first-line anti-programmed death-(ligand) 1 (anti-PD-(L)1) therapy in MCC, confirming durable PFS and OS in a proportion of patients. After initial tumor progression or relapse following response, some patients receiving salvage therapies survived. Improving the management of anti-PD-(L)1-refractory MCC remains a challenge and a high priority. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT02267603.

Characteristics and outcomes of KSHV-associated multicentric Castleman disease with or without other KSHV diseases

Blood Adv

2021 Thomas Uldrick

Kaposi sarcoma (KS)-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)-associated multicentric Castleman disease (MCD) is a relapsing and remitting systemic lymphoproliferative disorder characterized by severe inflammatory symptoms most common among people living with HIV (PLWH). Patients with KSHV-MCD may present with concurrent KSHV-associated diseases, such as KS and/or primary effusion lymphoma (PEL). We evaluated clinical and immunologic characteristics, the effects of concurrent KSHV malignancies, and treatments from the largest prospective natural history study of participants with KSHV-MCD within the United States. Treatment options administered at investigator discretion included high-dose zidovudine with valganciclovir (AZT/VGC), rituximab, or rituximab with liposomal doxorubicin (R-Dox) during KSHV-MCD flares. Survival analyses and prognostic factors were explored for all participants. Sixty-two participants with HIV were enrolled, including 20 with KSHV-MCD alone, 34 with KSHV-MCD and KS, 1 with KSHV-MCD and PEL, and 7 with all KSHV-associated diseases. Forty-four percent of KSHV-MCD diagnoses were made at our institution. Forty-four participants received rituximab-based therapies, 20 of whom had maintenance AZT/VGC or interferon. Participants receiving R-Dox and then maintenance AZT/VGC had the highest 5-year progression-free survival (89%). Cytokine profiles during KSHV-MCD flares did not differ by the presence of concurrent KSHV-associated diseases. The 10-year survival was 71% (95% confidence interval [CI], 56% to 82%) for all participants. A concurrent diagnosis of PEL negatively impacted survival (PEL hazard ratio, 5.4; 95% CI, 1.8 to 16.8). KSHV-MCD is an underdiagnosed condition among PLWH, including those with KS. KSHV-MCD has an excellent prognosis with appropriate treatment. Physicians should be alert for patients with multiple KSHV diseases, which impact optimal treatment and survival outcomes. This study was registered at as #NCT00099073.

Pembrolizumab in mycosis fungoides with PD-L1 structural variants

Blood Adv

2021 Srinivas Ramachandran; Nirasha Ramchurren; Martin Cheever; Steven Fling


Modernizing Clinical Trial Eligibility Criteria: Recommendations of the ASCO-Friends of Cancer Research Washout Period and Concomitant Medication Work Group

Clin Cancer Res

2021 Thomas Uldrick

PURPOSE: Washout periods and concomitant medication exclusions are common in cancer clinical trial protocols. These exclusion criteria are often applied inconsistently and without evidence to justify their use. The authors sought to determine how washout period and concomitant medication allowances can be broadened to speed trial enrollment and improve the generalizability of trial data to a larger oncology practice population without compromising the safety of trial participants. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: A multistakeholder working group was convened to define problems associated with excessively long washout periods and exclusion of patients due to concomitant medications. The group performed a literature search and evaluated study data from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), Emory University School of Medicine (Atlanta, GA), and the FDA to understand recent approaches to these eligibility criteria. The group convened to develop consensus recommendations for broadened eligibility criteria. RESULTS: The data analysis found that exclusion criteria based on washout periods and concomitant medications are frequently inconsistent and lack scientific rationale. Scientific rationale for appropriate eligibility criteria are presented in the article; for washout periods, rationale is presented by treatment type. CONCLUSIONS: Arbitrary or blanket washout and concomitant medication exclusions should be eliminated. Where there is evidence to support them, clinically relevant washout periods and concomitant medication-related eligibility criteria may be included.

Continuing to Broaden Eligibility Criteria to Make Clinical Trials More Representative and Inclusive: ASCO-Friends of Cancer Research Joint Research Statement

Clin Cancer Res

2021 Thomas Uldrick

PURPOSE: Restrictive clinical trial eligibility criteria (EC) limit the number of patients who can enroll and potentially benefit from protocol-driven, investigational treatment plans and reduce the generalizability of trial results to the broader population. Following publication of expert stakeholder recommendations for broadening EC in 2017, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Friends of Cancer Research (Friends) convened working groups to produce additional recommendations and analyze the potential impact on clinical trials using real-world data. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Multistakeholder working groups were appointed by an ASCO-Friends leadership group to propose recommendations for more inclusive EC related to: washout periods, concomitant medications, prior therapies, laboratory reference ranges and test intervals, and performance status. RESULTS: The four working groups, ASCO Board of Directors, and Friends leadership support the recommendations included in this statement to modernize EC related to washout periods, concomitant medications, prior therapies, laboratory references ranges and test intervals, and performance status to make trial populations more inclusive and representative of cancer patient populations. CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of the recommendations is intended to result in greater ease of determining patient eligibility. Increased opportunities for patient participation in research will help address longstanding underrepresentation of certain groups in clinical trials and produce evidence that is more informative for a broader patient population. More patients eligible will also likely speed clinical trial accrual.

Impact of Broadening Trial Eligibility Criteria for Patients with Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Real-World Analysis of Select ASCO-Friends Recommendations

Clin Cancer Res

2021 Thomas Uldrick

PURPOSE: Cancer clinical trials often accrue slowly or miss enrollment targets. Strict eligibility criteria are a major reason. Restrictive criteria also limit opportunities for patient participation while compromising external validity of trial results. We examined the impact of broadening select eligibility criteria on characteristics and number of patients eligible for trials, using recommendations of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Friends of Cancer Research. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: A retrospective, observational analysis used electronic health record data from ASCO's CancerLinQ Discovery database. Study cohort included patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer treated from 2011 to 2018. Patients were grouped by traditional criteria [no brain metastases, no other malignancies, and creatinine clearance (CrCl)  60 mL/minute] and broadened criteria (including brain metastases, other malignancies, and CrCl  30 mL/minute). RESULTS: The analysis cohort included 10,500 patients. Median age was 68 years, and 73% of patients were White. Most patients had stage IV disease (65%). A total of 5,005 patients (48%) would be excluded from trial participation using the traditional criteria. The broadened criteria, however, would allow 98% of patients (10,346) to be potential participants. Examination of patients included by traditional criteria (5,495) versus those added (4,851) by broadened criteria showed that the number of women, patients aged 75+ years, and those with stage IV cancer was significantly greater using broadened criteria. CONCLUSIONS: This analysis of real-world data demonstrated that broadening three common eligibility criteria has the potential to double the eligible patient population and include trial participants who are more representative of those encountered in practice.

Impact of Antiretroviral Therapy on Cancer Treatment Outcomes among People Living with HIV in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: a Systematic Review


2021 Thomas Uldrick; Rachel Bender Ignacio

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The relationship between antiretroviral therapy (ART) and cancer treatment outcomes among people living with HIV (PLWH) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is complex and poorly understood for many cancers. We aimed to summarize existing evidence from LMICs regarding the benefit of ART on cancer treatment-related outcomes. RECENT FINDINGS: We included twelve observational studies that reported associations between ART status and cancer treatment outcomes among HIV-positive patients in LMICs. Most confirmed ART was associated with improved cancer treatment outcomes. Heterogeneity in cancers under study, outcome measurement, categorization of ART status, and reporting of HIV-related immune function made formal comparison between studies untenable. Where evaluated, ART generally has a positive effect on cancer outcomes in people with HIV in LMICs. However, there remains a substantial gap in the literature regarding the impact of ART on treatment outcomes for most cancer types. Future research should focus on the optimal timing and integration of ART and cancer treatment for PLWH with strategies applicable to constrained-resource settings.

Sustained Helicobacter pylori infection accelerates gastric dysplasia in a mouse model

Life Sci Alliance

2021 Christina Leverich; Robert Pierce; Nina Salama; Julien Dubrulle; Valerie O'Brien; Jean Campbell; Vattanak Kong; Amanda Koehne; Armando Rodriguez

More than 80% of gastric cancer is attributable to stomach infection with Helicobacter pylori (Hp). Gastric preneoplastic progression involves sequential tissue changes, including loss of parietal cells, metaplasia and dysplasia. In transgenic mice, active KRAS expression recapitulates these tissue changes in the absence of Hp infection. This model provides an experimental system to investigate additional roles of Hp in preneoplastic progression, beyond its known role in initiating inflammation. Tissue histology, gene expression, the immune cell repertoire, and metaplasia and dysplasia marker expression were assessed in KRAS+ mice +/-Hp infection. Hp+/KRAS+ mice had severe T-cell infiltration and altered macrophage polarization; a different trajectory of metaplasia; more dysplastic glands; and greater proliferation of metaplastic and dysplastic glands. Eradication of Hp with antibiotics, even after onset of metaplasia, prevented or reversed these tissue phenotypes. These results suggest that gastric preneoplastic progression differs between Hp+ and Hp- cases, and that sustained Hp infection can promote the later stages of gastric preneoplastic progression.

Use of pembrolizumab with or without pomalidomide in HIV-associated non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

J Immunother Cancer

2021 Martin Cheever; Thomas Uldrick

BACKGROUND: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is currently the most common malignancy among people living with HIV (PLWH) in the USA. NHL in PLWH is more frequently associated with oncogenic viruses than NHL in immunocompetent individuals and is generally associated with increased PD-1 expression and T cell exhaustion. An effective immune-based second-line approach that is less immunosuppressive than chemotherapy may decrease infection risk, improve immune control of oncogenic viruses, and ultimately allow for better lymphoma control. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective study of patients with HIV-associated lymphomas treated with pembrolizumabpomalidomide in the HIV and AIDS Malignancy Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute. RESULTS: We identified 10 patients with stage IV relapsed and/or primary refractory HIV-associated NHL who were treated with pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inihibitor, with or without pomalidomide. Five patients had primary effusion lymphoma (PEL): one had germinal center B cell-like (GCB) diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL); two had non-GCB DLBCL; one had aggressive B cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified; and one had plasmablastic lymphoma. Six patients received pembrolizumab alone at 200mg intravenously every 3 weeks, three received pembrolizumab 200mg intravenously every 4 weeks plus pomalidomide 4mg orally every day for days 1-21 of a 28-day cycle; and one sequentially received pembrolizumab alone and then pomalidomide alone. The response rate was 50% with particular benefit in gammaherpesvirus-associated tumors. The progression-free survival was 4.1 months (95% CI: 1.3 to 12.4) and overall survival was 14.7 months (95%CI: 2.96 to not reached). Three patients with PEL had leptomeningeal disease: one had a complete response and the other two had long-term disease control. There were four immune-related adverse events (irAEs), all CTCAEv5 grade 2-3; three of the four patients were able to continue receiving pembrolizumab. No irAEs occurred in patients receiving the combination of pembrolizumab and pomalidomide. CONCLUSIONS: Treatment of HIV-associated NHL with pembrolizumab with or without pomalidomide elicited responses in several subtypes of HIV-associated NHL. This approach is worth further study in PLWH and NHL.

Detection of engineered T cells in FFPE tissue by multiplex in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry

J Immunol Methods

2021 Ratsamy Chanthaphavong; Jean Campbell; Marie Bleakley; Megan McAfee; Cameron Turtle; Anthony Rongvaux; Alexandre Hirayama; Robert Pierce; Aude Chapuis

Identifying engineered T cells in situ is important to understand the location, persistence, and phenotype of these cells in patients after adoptive T cell therapy. While engineered cells are routinely characterized in fresh tissue or blood from patients by flow cytometry, it is difficult to distinguish them from endogenous cells in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue biopsies. To overcome this limitation, we have developed a method for characterizing engineered T cells in fixed tissue using in situ hybridization (ISH) to the woodchuck hepatitis post-transcriptional regulatory element (WPRE) common in many lentiviral vectors used to transduce chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) and T cell receptor T (TCR-T) cells, coupled with alternative permeabilization conditions that allows subsequent multiplex immunohistochemical (mIHC) staining within the same image. This new method provides the ability to mark the cells by ISH, and simultaneously stain for cell-associated proteins to immunophenotype CAR/TCR modified T cells within tumors, as well as assess potential roles of these cells in on-target/off-tumor toxicity in other tissue.