Prof. Rossana Berardi E-Mail
Professor in Medical Oncology and Director of the Postgraduate School of Medical Oncology at Università Politecnica Marche; Director of Department of Medical Oncology, Director of “Genetic Cancer” Center and Breast Unit Coordinator at Ospedali Riuniti of Ancona, Italy
Research Keywords: thoracic cancer; breast cancer; neuroendocrine tumors; innovative therapies; COVID-19 and cancer
Immunotherapy in the last years improved outcome of cancer patients, inducing durable tumour responses, in particular in patients affected by NSCLC and melanoma. Immune checkpoint inhibitors regulate and stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack tumour cells. It is commonly better tolerated than chemotherapy and targeted therapy with a unique toxicity profile depending on their different of mechanism of activity.
These toxicities, despite rare, can be sometimes disabling.
However, some patients do not benefit from immunotherapy. Several original researches investigated the potential predictive role of clinical, pathological, laboratoristic factors to select responder patients.
Notwithstanding, a validated predictive parameters do not detected.
Immunotoxicity could involve all organs and systems requiring a specific management including steroids, immunomodulating therapy in multidisciplinary approach. Pathophysiology of immune-toxicity is still unclear. Parameters potentially associated with increased risk of immune-related adverse events are still under investigation.
This special issue focus on predictive factors of response and toxicity in cancer patients treated with immunotherapy in order to improve the management of those subjects.
Women for Oncology – Italy supports this special issue.
Keywords: immunotherapy; immune-related toxicity; multidisciplinary approach
The role of tumor burden (TB) for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) receiving immunotherapy is still unknown. The aim of this analysis was to analyze the prognostic value of TB in a real-world sample of advanced NSCLC patients.
Sixty-five consecutive patients with advanced NSCLC treated with immunotherapy as first or second line therapy were retrospectively analyzed between August 2015 and February 2018. TB was recorded at baseline considering sites and number of metastases, thoracic vs. extrathoracic disease, measurable disease (MD) vs. not-MD (NMD) and evaluating dimensional aspects as maximum lesion diameter (cut-off = 6.3 cm), sum of the 5 major lesions diameters (cut-off = 14.3 cm), and number of sites of metastases (cut-off > 4). All cut-offs were calculated by receiver operating characteristic curves. Median overall survival (OS) was estimated using Kaplan-Meier method. A Cox regression model was carried out for univariate and multivariate analyses.
Median age was 70 years and most patients (86.2%) had a good performance status (PS-Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group < 2). No significant difference in OS was noted between subgroups of patients according to TB. Bone metastases (BM) had a negative prognostic impact [median OS (mOS), 13.8 vs. 70.0 months, P = 0.0009; median progression free survival in the second line (mPFS2) 2.97 vs. 8.63 months; P = 0.0037]. Patients with NMD had a poorer prognosis (mOS, 15.9 months vs. not reached, P < 0.0001; mPFS2 3.8 vs. 12.2 months; P = 0.0199). Patients with disease limited to the thorax had a better prognosis compared to patients with involvement of extrathoracic sites (mOS, 70 vs. 17.3 months; P = 0.0136). Having more than 4 metastatic sites resulted as a negative prognostic factor (mOS, 15.9 vs. 25.2 months; P = 0.0106). At multivariate analysis, BM, NMD, extrathoracic disease and number of sites of metastases > 4 were negative prognostic factors (P < 0.0001).
This study underlines the negative prognostic impact of specific metastatic sites, presence of NMD and extrathoracic disease in advanced NSCLC patients treated with immunotherapy. However, TB does not appear to affect the outcome of these patients.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 inhibitors, programmed cell death 1 inhibitors and programmed cell death-ligand 1 inhibitors, have recently emerged as novel drugs in the anti-cancer therapy. Their use in different types of advanced cancer has shown good results and an increase in survival rates. However, immune-related adverse events (irAEs) are frequent and often require special care. IrAEs may affect all the organs, but they are most commonly seen in skin, lungs, endocrine glands and in the gastrointestinal tract where small bowel, colon, the liver and/or the pancreas can be involved. Despite being usually mild and self-resolving, irAEs may present in severe and life-threatening forms, causing the withdrawal of anti-cancer therapy. IrAEs, therefore, represent a challenging condition to manage that often requires the cooperation between the oncologists and the gastroenterologists in order to identify and treat them adequately.
Fungal compounds have long been used for centuries as food supplements. β-glucans have been identified as the most interesting molecules with beneficial effects in several chronic diseases. In vitro studies have shown that they are able to elicit the immune cells maturation and activation with the result of an increased release of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines and a stimulation of anti-bacterial activity of macrophages and neutrophils. As β-glucans enhance pathogen elimination through non-self antigens identification, they can also direct immune response against tumor cells. These compounds also stimulate the activity on adaptive immune cells and they have been regarded as biological response modifiers. In this way, β-glucans can be exploited as adjuvant cancer therapy, in particular by a synergic action with chemotherapy or immunotherapy. In the immuno-oncology era, the need is to identify innovative drugs that can simultaneously target and inhibit different biological processes relevant for cancer cells survivors. Recent clinical studies showed promising results about the combination of β-glucans and immune checkpoint inhibitors for patients affected by different solid tumors. This review aims to investigate molecular mechanisms of action of β-glucans and is focused on their application in clinical practice as immune-adjuvants for treatment of cancer patients.
Immunotherapy has changed the natural history of several malignancies that, a decade ago, had a very poor prognosis, such as lung cancer and melanoma. Consequently, many attempts have been done to expand the indications of immunotherapy agents, predominantly immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), in other cancers, including gynecological malignancies. Alongside promising results in cervical and endometrial neoplasms, there are not clear data on the benefit of ICIs as single agent or in combination with antiangiogenic agents in ovarian cancer (OC) and ongoing trials are focusing on combining ICIs with standard chemotherapy or PARP inhibitors. This chapter summarized the evidences of ICIs in gynecological malignancies and report the ongoing trials in cervical, endometrial and OC.
The introduction of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in non-oncogene addicted non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has revolutionized the treatment scenario and led to a meaningful improvement in patient prognosis. Disappointingly, the success of ICI therapy in NSCLC has not been fully replicated in other thoracic malignancies as small cell lung cancer (SCLC), malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), and thymic epithelial tumors (TETs), due to the peculiar biological features of these disease and to the difficulties in the conduction of well-designed, biomarker-driven clinical trials. Therefore, combination strategies of ICIs plus conventional therapies (either chemotherapy, alternative ICIs or targeted agents) have been implemented. Although first approvals of ICI therapy have been recently granted in SCLC and MPM (in combination with chemotherapy and different ICIs), results remain somewhat modest and limited to a small proportion of patients. This work reviews the trial results of ICI therapy in mesothelioma, SCLC, and TETs and discusses the potential of combining ICIs with old drugs.
Hyperprogressive disease (HPD) is a novel pattern of response during immunotherapy treatment. Several retrospective studies have evaluated its prevalence among various cancer types and, in particular, in non-small cell lung cancer patients, based on different definition criteria. If HPD is a just a typical phenomenon of immunotherapy is still an unsolved concern. This paper summarized the available data about HPD in other cancer treatments.
Although breast cancer is not traditionally considered an immunogenic type of tumor, the combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy has recently emerged as a novel treatment option in triple-negative subtype in the advanced setting and other similar combinations of immune checkpoint inhibitors with chemotherapy are expected to become part of the neoadjuvant management in the near future. In addition, encouraging results have been observed with the combination of immune checkpoint blockade with diverse biological agents, including anti-HER2 agents, CDK 4/6 inhibitors, PARP-inhibitors. The present review summarized the available evidence coming from clinical trials on the role of immune checkpoint inhibitors in the management of breast cancer, both in advanced and early setting.
Immunotherapy dramatically changed the management of several malignancies including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Since immune checkpoint inhibitors have a different mechanism of action from cytotoxic agents or small molecules against NSCLC, also tumor response may present with atypical features. Pseudoprogression (PP) is a distinct response pattern defined by a transient enlargement of the tumor burden, sustained by inflammatory cells and usually not associated with worsening of performance status (PS). Here the authors describe the case of a lung adenocarcinoma patient treated with pembrolizumab, who developed an early symptomatic PP with a dramatic global worsening of PS. Subsequently an improvement in general condition and a brilliant tumor response were observed. Tumor re-biopsy was collected after the treatment in order to support the identification of PP and to describe microenvironment modifications induce by immunotherapy.