New Research on Bladder Cancer, Stomach Cancer, and Small Cell Lung Cancer

Last Updated: May 11, 2018

Dr. Daniel Hayes discusses new cancer research highlighted at ASCO’s 2016 Annual Meeting, covering individual studies about immunotherapy and targeted therapy for: bladder cancer, gastric cancer, and small cell lung cancer.


Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

Cancer Research News from 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting

Immunotherapy and Tumor Targeting

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FASCO: For 120 years, we've been trying to get the immune system to go after cancers with this much success and not much more. I'm actually a reformed immunotherapist. I walked out of the field because I didn't think it was going anywhere, 25 years ago. But now we know how to break through the cloak of invisibility that normal souls have, to protect us from our own immune system. And when those souls become cancer, they take that cloak of invisibility with them. We can break through that. That was the big story five years ago at the plenary session. It was the big story three years ago, it was the big story last year. It's continuing to be the big story. We're getting more drugs, more ways to do this, understanding the cloak of invisibility more.

One area is in locally advanced carcinoma of the bladder. Every oncologist here knows, that's a bad cancer to have. We can treat it with chemotherapy, but the chemotherapy is toxic, not very effective, if you are older. And most people who get this cancer are all older. It's almost impossible to give. This is a trial to suggest the response rate to one of the immunotherapies in older people who have locally advanced bladder cancer, and it's working. Is it ready for prime time? Not yet, it's a phase II trial. But it sure suggests that this could be a really neat way to treat people that we really haven't had much to treat.

Part two is gastric cancer, another really tough cancer to treat. Yes, chemotherapy works okay. This is a randomized trial of an antibody that sees something called [VE-cadherin?]. The response rate here is higher in patients who got chemotherapy plus antibody versus chemotherapy alone. Progression-free survival is longer. Again, an unmet need, a cancer we haven't treated very well, and it looks like we may have something new. That's going to have to go into phase IIIs and really prove that it's true, but that's exciting.

And then finally, small cell lung cancer. When I came in the field 30 years ago, it was pretty clear that chemotherapy could cure a few patients with small cell lung cancer, and Dr. Larry Einhorn, my mentor at the time - I was a med student - told me it's only going to be a matter of time before small cell lung cancer's gone because chemotherapy's going to cure them. Unfortunately, we've made no strides against small cell lung cancer since 1977.

Suddenly, it looks like we may have. It's a phase II trial of an antibody drug conjugate. The antibody is again something that is very commonly made in small cell lung cancers. And the conjugate is basically a drug that you cannot give to people as a free drug. But now it works like a Trojan Horse, and the antibody brings in the drug, goes inside the cell, the drug gets broken off and kills the cell. Yes, there's some toxicities but not much. And the response rate looks like it could be as high as 30% in people who have already progressed on chemotherapy. This is an unmet need and space, and if this really pans out in the subsequent phase IIs and phase IIIs which are ongoing, this is a real step forward. We're really excited abut this.

Immunotherapy's here to stay. Now we need to know how to make it even better, how to make it more precise, how to make it more targeted. These are the things that are going on. Stay tuned, it's going to happen in droves.

[Closing and Credits]

Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

ASCO's patient education programs are supported by Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical  

Special Thanks:

Dr. Mary Wilkinson, Dr. Raymund Cuevo, and the staff at Medical Oncology & Hematology Associates of Northern Virginia

Carolyn B. Hendricks, MD, The Cancer for Breast Health

Hasbro Children’s Hospital

Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care Health System

The Adele R. Decof Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital. The Miriam Hospital is a teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Video Footage and photography courtesy of:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Biomedical Communications

Moffitt Cancer Center

University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center

The opinions expressed in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of ASCO or the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

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