2022 Research Round Up: Lung Cancer, Lymphoma, and Childhood Cancers

September 15, 2022
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In the Research Round Up series, ASCO experts and members of the Cancer.Net Editorial Board discuss the most exciting and practice-changing research in their field and explain what it means for people with cancer. In today’s episode, our guests will discuss new research in lung cancer, lymphoma, and childhood cancer that was presented at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting, held June 3-7 in Chicago, Illinois.


ASCO: You’re listening to a podcast from Cancer.Net. This cancer information website is produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO, the voice of the world's oncology professionals.

The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. This is not a substitute for professional medical care and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests on this podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. Guests’ statements on this podcast do not express the opinions of ASCO. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy should not be construed as an ASCO endorsement. Cancer research discussed in this podcast is ongoing, so data described here may change as research progresses.

In the Research Round Up series, ASCO experts and members of the Cancer.Net Editorial Board discuss the most exciting and practice-changing research in their field and explain what it means for people with cancer. In today’s episode, our guests will discuss new research in lung cancer, lymphoma, and childhood cancer that was presented at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting, held June 3-7 in Chicago, Illinois.

First, Dr. Charu Aggarwal will discuss 3 studies looking at treatment options for people with non-small cell lung cancer.

Dr. Aggarwal is the Leslye Heisler Associate Professor of Medicine in the Hematology-Oncology Division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is also the Cancer.Net Associate Editor for Lung Cancer.

You can view Dr. Aggarwal’s disclosures at Cancer.Net.

Dr. Aggarwal: Hello and welcome to this Cancer.Net podcast. I'm bringing you updates from the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, held in Chicago in 2022. I'm Dr. Charu Aggarwal. I'm the Leslye Heisler Associate Professor for Lung Cancer Excellence at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center. I will be discussing updates on 3 studies today that offer insights and new advances in the management of patients with non-small cell lung cancer. I don't have any direct relationship with any of these companies or studies, and you can view a list of my disclosures on the Cancer.Net website.

First off, I would like to talk a little bit about advances in the management of patients with EGFR exon 20 mutations. We know that a lot of advances have been made in the management of patients with non-small cell lung cancer, and much of that has been attributed to the fact that we are now able to deliver targeted therapy for a subset of patients. EGFR mutations form one such subset where we have a lot of oral drugs that are available, and we can offer these that improve survival, and patients can avoid chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other IV infusional therapies. Within the subset of EGFR mutations lies this unique subset of EGFR exon 20 insertion mutations, which have been historically harder to target with currently available EGFR inhibitors. And over the last 5 years, we have seen tremendous growth of opportunities, targets, and new drugs for this subset of patients. The mutations in this subset forms about 2% to 5% of all non-small cell lung cancers. But now we have 2 FDA-approved drugs in this space, one being intravenously administered, amivantamab, and another that is orally available, mobocertinib. We covered this in a podcast as well as a blog, so please check those out on our Cancer.Net website.

But building upon that progress, there is now another drug that was reported at ASCO. This drug is called CLN-081. And we saw preliminary activity in a phase 1 and 2 study of this molecule or this drug in patients with EGFR exon 20 insertion mutations. It's an orally available drug. The top line data is that it is safe, it is effective, it was tested in different doses. It was tested at less than 65 milligrams, 100 milligrams, and 150 milligrams, again, as I mentioned, administered orally, and we saw responses and patients that had previously received other therapies and may have progressed on other therapies. And what we found was that this drug also tends to have activity against brain metastases, which I think is this huge unmet need in the management of such patients. So I think more to come, but again, I think offers us an insight into what may be in the future, an attractive drug for our patients with EGFR exon 20 insertion mutations. So stay tuned, more on that in the future.

Shifting gears, I would like to now talk about one of the common mutations. So we talked about EGFR exon 20, which is about only 2% to 5%, but the largest subset of mutations in non-small cell lung cancer really revolves around KRAS mutations, and these form about 30% to 35% of all mutations in non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer. And amongst this group there is another subset which is KRAS G12C non-small cell lung cancer, that forms about 13% of all lung cancers. We have 1 approved drug already in this space by the name of sotorasib that is FDA approved for the management of patients with this particular mutation after having received 1 prior therapy, be it chemo-immunotherapy or immunotherapy. At this year's ASCO meeting, we heard data from a study called KRYSTAL-1, which looked at the activity and safety of another molecule called adagrasib, which is an orally available drug targeting KRAS G12C, again, in a similar population of patients with advanced and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer harboring a mutation.

We found that this drug is again effective, the overall response rate was about 43%, the majority of the patients had stabilization of disease, about 80%, and many patients were able to remain on treatment with stabilization of disease. We found that this drug does have side effects and adverse events and most commonly of this were diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Many patients did require dose reductions, but the activity of the drug remained despite dose reductions. Now, what would be the advantage of this drug against the currently available sotorasib? In another smaller study reported at ASCO, there seemed to be activity in the brain, including intracranial penetration with the use of this molecule, adagrasib, which has not been demonstrated before with other KRAS G12C inhibitors, so I think that makes it a potentially attractive option. Again, I will say that the report of this intracranial activity was in a very small subgroup of patients, so I think needs to be further corroborated in a larger study.

Shifting gears again and talking about our last study, so I would like to highlight what do we do if, in case, patients don't have a targetable mutation. I want to highlight that we do have a lot of available options, and we are continuing to improve upon available options. The way we treat such patients is by using immunotherapy, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy. But what do we do after this treatment stops working? Researchers from the Southwestern Oncology Group, or SWOG, launched a massive national effort called Lung-MAP, which is basically a clinical trial that evaluates several different strategies all at once, either for patients with targetable mutations or for patients without a targetable alteration. And they reported results from a study that evaluated the combination of pembrolizumab with ramucirumab in patients that may have progressed after frontline immunotherapy. Now, pembrolizumab is immunotherapy, so the concept was, can we continue immunotherapy beyond progression and perhaps get some synergistic activity by using ramucirumab, which is a drug that prevents blood vessels from forming in the tumor itself. It's an anti-angiogenic agent, meaning that it is a targeted molecule that prevents blood vessel formation and promotes tumor death. What they found was that patients that received pembrolizumab and ramucirumab were more likely to live longer, so overall survival was longer for patients with this combination compared to a physician investigator discretion choice, such as chemotherapy in combination with ramucirumab or other chemotherapies that are otherwise used in the second line setting.

And interestingly, we did not find a significant improvement in shrinkage with this combination of pembrolizumab and ramucirumab or a significant reduction in the time of progression-- or, sorry, prolongation of the time of progression of disease. But the overall survival findings are interesting, and I think that's why we are including them in this podcast because that's one of the approaches that is leading to an improvement in survival and improvement in outcomes. I will point out that this is a phase 2 study. These results would need to be validated in a large prospective phase 3 trial so that we can account for certain confounding factors that may have led to these results. Having said that, I think there's a tremendous excitement, there's tremendous excitement in this field. I gave you examples of, or highlighted, 3 studies: one in patients with EGFR exon 20 insertion mutations, another in KRAS G12C mutations, and the third in patients who may have already received either immunotherapy or chemoimmunotherapy. We will continue to update our Cancer.Net website with updates as they come through, new advances, new studies, so thanks for following, thanks for listening, and more to come. Stay tuned. Thank you.

ASCO: Thank you, Dr. Aggarwal.

Next, Dr. Christopher Flowers will discuss new research in treating people with different subtypes of lymphoma, including mantle cell lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Dr. Flowers is the Chair of the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and was appointed Division Head ad interim of Cancer Medicine in August 2020. He is also the 2022 Cancer.Net Associate Editor for Lymphoma.  

You can view Dr. Flowers’ disclosures at Cancer.Net.

Dr. Flowers: Hello and welcome to this podcast that is a review of late breaking abstracts from the ASCO Meeting and recent updates in lymphoma. I'm Dr. Christopher Flowers, professor and chair of the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma and Interim Division Head for Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson. And it's my great pleasure to discuss with you some of these late breaking abstracts. I do have some disclosures that are related to the content that I will present from this year's ASCO Meeting and recent studies in lymphomas. Those are available at Cancer.Net. Those relate to my role as a consultant for the development of clinical trials in lymphomas and research funding that MD Anderson has received from companies related to my role in clinical trials in lymphoma and clinical trials across cancers.

So, the ASCO Meeting had a host of new information that was presented. Some of that information centers around key clinical trials. One that was a pivotal clinical trial, the SHINE clinical trial, looked at patients with mantle cell lymphoma, a rarer lymphoma subtype, that looked at the combination of bendamustine and rituximab, a standard chemoimmunotherapy combination, compared to that same chemoimmunotherapy combination, bendamustine, rituximab, plus the Bruton's tyrosine kinase inhibitor ibrutinib. Ibrutinib, as some of you may know, is a kind of therapy that is typically used in the relapse setting for patients with mantle cell lymphoma when they have their disease come back. And the SHINE clinical trial was looking at adding it to frontline therapy. What this randomized, controlled trial in the phase 3 setting found was that patients who received the combination of bendamustine, rituximab, plus ibrutinib had improvement in their progression-free survival, meaning that the time that it took for their disease to come back or them to have deaths related to the lymphoma was longer for patients who received this combination. About 2.3 years longer than the group that received bendamustine, rituximab, plus placebo. And in total, that led to a median progression-free survival of 6.7 years.

That study has now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and was led by my colleague Dr. Michael Wong from MD Anderson. Dr. Wong also led another study that was presented at the ASCO Meeting looking at CAR T-cell therapy for patients with mantle cell lymphoma. That study has now been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, and it looks at brexucabtagene autoleucel, a kind of CAR T-cell therapy, where that-- the CAR T-cell therapy was successfully manufactured for 71 of the 74 patients in the trial. 68 of those patients received an infusion and the median progression-free survival, so the average amount of time that it took for patients to have progression of their disease, was about 25 months. And so a marked benefit for those patients who were receiving CAR T-cell therapy when their mantle cell lymphoma came back.

There also were major breaking abstracts at the ASCO Meeting in the area of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. As many of you may know, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is the most common type of lymphoma that occurs in the United States. And there was a breaking trial that was presented in December at the American Society of Hematology Meeting describing polatuzumab, a CD79b antibody drug conjugate, as a new drug in the substitution of frontline therapy for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in combinations with rituximab, cyclophosphamide, adriamycin, and prednisone, or the pola-R-CHP arm, that compared favorably to rituximab and CHOP chemotherapy, which has been the standard of care for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. And that trial showed an improvement in progression-free survival.

At this year's ASCO Meeting, Franck Morschhauser presented results from looking at subsets of that patient population. Those patients who had BCL2 by immunohistochemistry that was positive or MYC expression by immunohistochemistry that was positive, or both of those, what we call double-expressor lymphomas, those who have poorer risk than standard groups. And those double-expressor lymphomas, treated with pola-R-CHP, had improvement in progression-free survival compared to R-CHOP with a hazard ratio of 0.64 in that group. We also saw in a multitude of analysis that that supported the benefit of pola-R-CHP in patients with both BCL2-positive and MYC-positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Another area that has been very hot in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma clinical trials is the role of bispecific antibodies. Bispecific antibodies are antibodies that bind both to CD20, a marker on the diffuse large B-cell or the lymphoma cells, and to the marker CD3, which is a marker on T-cells which brings the normal T-cells of the immune system in close proximity to the lymphoma cells and then leads to immune-directed killing of lymphoma cells. The agent glofitamab is an agent that was presented by Michael Dickinson at this year's ASCO Meeting in an abstract. And in this study, 107 patients who received more than 1 dose of steady treatment went on to have complete responses in about 35% of patients. And this showed that glofitamab induced durable complete responses and had a very favorable safety profile in patients with relapsed and refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. And in this trial, they compared that also for patients who had prior exposure to CAR T-cells and showed that responses were also good in those patients.

Another set of studies has also looked at bispecific antibodies and a whole host of other areas with multitude of other agents. Another study that was presented at this year's ASCO Meeting explored the use of bispecific antibodies in the frontline setting in combination with the R-CHOP regimen that I just discussed. In that study, Lorenzo Falchi presented results of the subcutaneous bispecific antibody epcoritamab in combination with R-CHOP. This was a relatively small study of 33 patients that showed that the combination of epcoritamab plus R-CHOP was something that was safe and tolerable. There were no new treatment emergent adverse events that led to discontinuation of epcoritamab in the study. And there are some adverse events that are of special interest that we see with the bispecific antibodies, and those include the kind of immune-mediated adverse events that we can also see with CAR T-cells, like cytokine release syndrome, or CRS, or neurologic toxicities that we can see there that are also called ICANS. What we've seen in this trial, that about 42% of patients had some form of cytokine release syndrome, but that most severe form of cytokine release syndrome, those that were greater than grade 3 in severity, was only in 3% of patients. And likewise, the neurologic toxicities, or ICANS, that were grade 2 was in only 3% of patients. Relatively few patients completed all therapy by the time that this was presented. Only 10 patients had completed 6 cycles of therapy, but that showed an overall response rate that was quite high in that patient population.

There were a whole host of other trials that were presented at this year's ASCO Meeting, and those portend improved kinds of outcomes on the horizon for patients with lymphomas across the spectrum. And I think it's an exciting time moving forward for clinical trials in lymphoma and hopefully, to see new therapies that emerge for the management of this disease.

One of those new therapies that happened outside of the ASCO Meeting was the recent FDA approval of CAR T-cell therapy in the relapse setting for follicular lymphoma. And this was based on the ELARA clinical trial. And I think the future is quite bright for therapies and for patients with lymphomas broadly.

ASCO: Thank you, Dr. Flowers.

Finally, Dr. Daniel Mulrooney will discuss new research in childhood cancers, including a study comparing treatment options for Ewing sarcoma, and several studies on neuroblastoma.

Dr. Mulrooney is an Associate Member in the Division of Cancer Survivorship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He is also the Cancer.Net Associate Editor for Pediatric Cancers.

You can view Dr. Mulrooney’s disclosures at Cancer.Net.

Dr. Mulrooney: My name is Dr. Dan Mulrooney from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. I'm the Deputy Director of the After Completion of Therapy Clinic at St. Jude and primary care for survivors of pediatric solid tumors. The annual ASCO Meeting is typically quite busy and full of research presentations sharing knowledge and advances in cancer treatment and care.

Today, I'd like to highlight some of the exciting presentations in pediatric cancer. Please note, I do not have any relationships to disclose related to any of these studies. At this year's meeting, one of the highlights was a European study in patients with relapsed or refractory Ewing sarcoma. Ewing sarcoma is a rare bone cancer that typically occurs in adolescents or young adults. While challenging to treat, it is difficult to cure in patients who have relapsed, and studies are needed to improve the care of these patients. Investigators from 13 European countries and Australia and New Zealand studied the most common relapsed therapies, which include irinotecan and temozolomide, gemcitabine and docetaxel, topotecan and cyclophosphamide, or high-dose ifosfamide.

The study enrolled 451 patients between 2014 and 2021 and randomly assigned them to one of these four treatments. Based on response rates, the first 2 arms were dropped and the study was largely a comparison between topotecan cyclophosphamide and high-dose ifosfamide. The main outcome was event-free survival. Event-free survival is a common way in a clinical trial to see how well a treatment works. It measures the time from treatment that the patient remains free of complications, such as return or progression of the cancer. But investigators also looked at overall survival, toxicity, and quality of life. The 6-month event-free survival was better for high-dose ifosfamide at 47% compared to 37% for topotecan cyclophosphamide.

The median overall survival was also better for high-dose ifosfamide compared to topotecan cyclophosphamide. The results were best for children younger than 14 years old versus those 14 or greater. Toxicities included fever and neutropenia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients receiving high-dose ifosfamide had more neurologic and kidney toxicities, which might be expected since ifosfamide is known to affect these organ systems, while only descriptive measurements of quality of life appeared higher for those children treated with high-dose ifosfamide compared to topotecan and cyclophosphamide.

The strength of this trial is its large size, particularly for a rare cancer, and the fact that it randomized patients to the most commonly used treatment regimens for relapsed Ewing sarcoma. Importantly, data did not previously exist comparing these different treatments. While the results of this study are promising, clearly more needs to be done, and there was a lot of discussion at the ASCO Meeting about how to further improve survival in these patients. This study provides some information for doctors and patients, but importantly, provides data to advance future trials, which will concentrate on incorporating new targeted drugs with high-dose ifosfamide. This study is ongoing and is adding additional arms to continue to improve the outcomes for patients with relapsed or refractory Ewing sarcoma.

In addition to this study in Ewing sarcoma, several studies investigating neuroblastoma were presented. Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid tumor in children and for children with high-risk disease requires intensive and prolonged treatment, including chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplantation. Treatment for these patients has improved since the introduction of immunotherapy, particularly an antibody directed at a particular antigen named GD2 on the neuroblastoma cells. One study showed improvement in outcomes using this antibody for children with relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma, and another study demonstrated feasibility of using this antibody earlier in treatment, which was not previously known to be safe and tolerable.

In what is called the BEACON study, investigators tested whether the antibody, called dinutuximab, would be effective when combined with chemotherapy for relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma. They enrolled 65 patients from 2019 to 2021 and randomized these patients to either chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus dinutuximab. The median age of these children was 4 years. The overall response rate, which means either a complete or partial response, was 18% for the chemotherapy-only arm but improved to nearly 35% for those treated with chemotherapy and dinutuximab. The progression-free survival was 27% for chemotherapy only and improved to 57% for those treated with chemotherapy and the antibody. There was no change in overall survival, though investigators think this may have been due to some patients who had progressive disease and crossed over to the antibody arm of the study.

This presentation was followed by a study from the Children's Oncology Group, which investigated the feasibility of adding antibody treatment earlier in the treatment regimen for neuroblastoma. Prior studies had used antibody later in treatment when the tumor burden is thought to be lower. The endpoint of this study was tolerability measured by toxic deaths or unacceptable toxicities, such as adverse reactions to the medication. For example, sustained low blood pressure requiring a ventilator or breathing machine, or severe neuropathy. 42 high-risk neuroblastoma patients were enrolled from 8 different children's hospitals between 2019 and 2021. 41 of the 42 were able to complete the induction chemotherapy plus the antibody. There were no toxic deaths or unacceptable toxicities. Importantly, 85% were able to complete the next phase of treatment, called the consolidation phase, and 79% were able to complete the following phase after consolidation, called post-consolidation. One-year event-free survival was 83%, and 1-year overall survival was 95%. Now, it's important to know these are still early results, and the trial recently closed, and some of the patients have only completed therapy within the last year. Both of these studies add to the knowledge of chemoimmunotherapy for children with high-risk neuroblastoma. These studies provide a foundation for larger randomized trials that will further advance the care of these children.

And finally, another study looked at race, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities among children treated for high-risk neuroblastoma on Children's Oncology Group studies. There were no differences in event-free survival, but there were differences in overall survival based on ethnicity. The 5-year survival was lowest for Hispanic patients at 47%, 50% for non-Hispanic other ethnicities, which included Asian, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islanders, and 62% for non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White children. Importantly, these investigators also studied household and neighborhood poverty. Overall, survival was lower for children living in poverty, though some of these differences went away when accounting for other factors, such as stage of disease or high-risk features. This study is important because it highlights the increasing need to collect data on clinical trials that may contribute to inequities in outcomes. While most studies collect data on the race and ethnicity of participants, other factors known as social determinants of health, such as income, neighborhood, education, access to health care, and insurance coverage, may also contribute to outcomes in pediatric cancer patients.

Overall, the studies highlighted here and presented at this year's ASCO Annual Meeting focused on difficult-to-treat cancers, such as relapse or refractory disease, and they have laid the groundwork for future investigations to continue to improve survival rates for all children diagnosed with a malignancy through improved therapies and by addressing potential social barriers. Thank you for listening to this brief summary of the new research in pediatric oncology presented at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting.

ASCO: Thank you, Dr. Mulrooney.

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