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Combination Therapies Push Melanoma Field Forward

Danielle Bucco
Published: Monday, Dec 11, 2017

Michael A. Postow, MD
Michael A. Postow, MD
Combination therapy continues to propel the treatment landscape for patients with melanoma in a positive direction, according to Michael A. Postow, MD, who adds that an area of interest is the combination of BRAF and MEK inhibitors with PD-1 therapy as well as combinations of LAG-3 inhibition plus PD-1 agents.

“The world is moving to 2- and 3-drug combinations and, if those show benefit in randomized studies, we will all be happy about that,” said Postow. “We need to keep in mind that we should be conservative with our thinking until we have the data to support what could be more expensive and toxic regimens.”

In an interview during the 2017 OncLive® State of the Science SummitTM on Melanoma, Postow, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, discusses the evolution of combination therapies for patients with melanoma.

OncLive®: Please provide an overview of your presentation on combination therapies for patients with melanoma.

Postow: There are many new combination therapies in patients with melanoma. For patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma, we are seeing combinations of BRAF and MEK inhibitors with immunotherapy drugs that are moving into randomized phase III studies. We will know if something improves when you add immunotherapy to BRAF and MEK inhibitors. Outside of that targeted therapy world for patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma, we are seeing new immuno-oncology combination agents.

I discussed a few of those combinations that are moving forward in clinical trials, such as IDO blockers plus PD-1 agents. Also, a new immune checkpoint called LAG-3 has some data in combination with PD-1 blockade in patients had progressed on prior PD-1 therapies. That is interesting to know—that you can block LAG-3 after someone has progressed on PD-1 agents and there can be efficacy, at least in combination, with ongoing PD-1 therapy in some of those patients.

We are seeing efficacy now in a number of earlier-phase studies with different types of agents. We are still waiting on randomized data to be certain that one of those approaches is better than another. We are hopeful that some of these approaches will be.

Can you go into more detail with the LAG-3 trial and how it is seen to be tolerated?

The LAG-3 agent now has a name called relatlimab. It was combined with nivolumab, a PD-1 drug, in this study. This is a study of patients with advanced melanoma who progressed on prior PD-1 or PD-L1 therapy. They may have had an initial response to PD-1/PD-L1, but all of them must have had defined progression on PD-1. We saw a response rate of 12% in all-comer patients. It was a higher response rate in patients who expressed LAG-3 in their tumor microenvironment.

We may start seeing the emergence of a LAG-3 biomarker in the tumor microenvironment. We are trying to figure out what it means to be LAG-3–positive. What does that say about a tumor microenvironment? However, it is interesting that there might be a biomarker for a new checkpoint inhibitor in development. We are waiting on randomized studies to see if LAG-3 improves outcomes compared with PD-1 alone. Obviously, we are interested in patients who have not progressed on PD-1 and determining how effective LAG-3 can be in combination to PD-1. At least it is something good for our PD-1–refractory patients.

Can you discuss ongoing combinations with talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC; Imlygic)?

Oncolytic viral therapies, meaning injecting a tumor site with a virus and adding it to checkpoint blockade, is something that we are also excited about if we have patients with lymph nodes or tumors in the skin that we can inject. When T-VEC was combined with ipilimumab in a randomized study, it showed that it improved outcomes compared with ipilimumab alone. Many say that if you are going to be giving ipilimumab and you have an injectable tumor site, such as a lymph node or subcutaneous metastasis, you may as well give T-VEC with ipilimumab if that can be done. With PD-1, we do not know whether adding T-VEC to PD-1 improves outcomes over PD-1 alone.

View Conference Coverage
Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: 13th Annual International Symposium on Melanoma and Other Cutaneous Malignancies®Apr 28, 20182.0
Community Practice Connections™: Precision Medicine for Community Oncologists: Assessing the Role of Tumor-Testing Technologies in Cancer CareNov 30, 20181.0
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