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Five novel agents for the treatment of patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the lung will be evaluated in the recently launched Lung-MAP trial
Vassiliki Papadimitrakopoulou, MD
Five novel agents for the treatment of patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the lung will be evaluated in the recently launched Lung-MAP trial, an innovative biomarker-driven study that aims to improve the drug development process while exploring therapeutic options for this challenging malignancy.
Plans call for enrolling up to 5000 patients through more than 200 medical centers during the next five years in randomized phase II substudies of the novel agents after participants have been screened through a master protocol. The study, formally known as SWOG S1400, may cost up to $160 million and involve testing an additional five to seven drugs beyond the agents initially selected, Lung-MAP organizers said in announcing the study in June.1
The first round of agents to be tested include four targeted therapies—GDC-0032, palbociclib, AZD4547, and rilotumumab—and the immunotherapy MEDI4736.2
The logistics of the trial have been challenging to coordinate but academic researchers, government regulators, and pharmaceutical companies have embraced the concept, according to Vassiliki Papadimitrakopoulou, MD, the principal investigator. Collaborators include six companies, the SWOG and the National Clinical Trials Network research cooperatives, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
“Everybody sees the advantages in the process. We have an unprecedented willingness to participate,” said Papadimitrakopoulou, a professor in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
“There is a realization that we’re doing things in such a fractional way in clinical research now that we’re not really fulfilling our goals of getting safe and effective drugs to the patients as fast as possible,” she said.
Papadimitrakopoulou discussed the Lung-MAP trial in a telephone interview with OncLive in advance of the 15th Annual International Lung Cancer Congress, where she will explain the use of the master protocol design for implementing personalized medicine. Physicians’ Education Resource (PER) is hosting the conference July 31-August 2 in Huntington Beach, California.
The Lung-MAP trial seeks to recruit patients with advanced or incurable stage IIIB/IV squamous cell carcinoma who have progressed after receiving one frontline platinum-containing chemotherapy regimen for metastatic disease (Table). Detailed criteria for assignment to a substudy group and then to a study drug also have been developed.2
To screen for biomarkers, investigators will conduct genomic profiling on either archived or freshly obtained tumor specimens using the FoundationOne test, which analyzes 182 genes.
After genomic evaluation, patients will be channeled into one of five substudies depending on their biomarker status and then randomized within that study. The substudies are:
Papadimitrakopoulou said 16 pharmaceutical companies competed to have their drugs included in the trial in a rigorous process that included presenting data before a selection committee.
The primary endpoint of the phase II and phase III trial is progression-free survival by Response Evaluation Criteria. Secondary endpoints include response rates and toxicity frequencies. Researchers also will be evaluating the percentages of screened patients who register in a specific substudy and receive at least one dose of the study drug in an effort to track successful registration and screen failure rates.
Agents that demonstrate sufficient efficacy to graduate from phase II to phase III could be considered for registration by the FDA, while agents that do not will be replaced by new agents or combinations.
Squamous cell carcinomas represent 25% to 30% of all lung cancers and constitute the second-largest subtype of non—small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after adenocarcinoma,3 but no targeted therapies have been developed yet for patients whose tumors have this histology.
“Despite a lot of impressive therapeutic advances that we have seen in lung cancer in the last few years, most of these advances are in reference to lung adenocarcinomas in specific mutational subsets and they do not pertain to the squamous subset of patients for whom standard therapy still remains chemotherapy,” said Papadimitrakopoulou. “In many respects, this particular subset of lung tumors remains an orphan setting.”
This situation has persisted even though genomic alterations in squamous cell lung cancer were fully characterized two years ago in research conducted through The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Network,4 Papadimitrakopoulou noted.
In the Lung-MAP trial, researchers are using the database from Foundation Medicine, which developed the genomic profiling test being used in the study, for insight into alterations in refractory disease, and TCGA data derived from early-stage disease specimens.
“This is the first attempt to systematically go after the alterations that we have sufficient knowledge of, and I think this is going to open up the path for additional alterations that can be targeted ” said Papadimitrakopoulou. “This trial is going to provide the largest repository of squamous lung cancer materials from patients from the refractory setting.”
The impetus for organizing the Lung-MAP trial stems from many factors, including a mandate from the NCI and the Institute of Medicine to improve clinical trial designs.
“The rationale is mostly efficiency—exploring novel therapeutics in a setting where we haven’t seen any approvals of novel therapeutics that are targeting alterations so far, and trying to bring into our trials next-generation sequencing, which is a clinical reality but hasn’t been generalized in its use in other studies,” said Papadimitrakopoulou.
The trial has mobilized a network of resources throughout the United States in research, advocacy, and industry.
The study is being launched through SWOG, formerly the Southwest Oncology Group, and cooperative groups represented by sub-study chairs and co-chairs throughout the country will lead the various substudies.
The co-chairs for the study are David R. Gandara, MD, of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in California, who is SWOG’s Lung Committee chair, and Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, of the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, who is leading the Lung-MAP steering committee.
Also playing leading roles are Fred R. Hirsch, MD, PhD, of the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver, Philip C. Mack, PhD, of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Mary Redman, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. (Gandara and Herbst also serve as program directors of the PER conference this weekend, while Hirsch and Mack will offer presentations on other emerging developments in lung cancer).
Other key players in the Lung-MAP cooperative include the Friends of Cancer Research, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, led by Ellen V. Sigal, PhD, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health’s Biomarker Consortium. Among industry partners, the collaboration brings together the companies whose drugs are being evaluated and Foundation Medicine.
“I think what is enticing to the companies is, first of all, the established mechanism for screening patients upfront utilizing the resources and the patient populations that exist within the cooperative groups,” said Papadimitrakopoulou. “It’s quite a unique resource because each company would have to recruit their own network to run similar clinical trials targeted toward any of the alterations in squamous lung cancer.”
Moreover, the FDA was directly involved in oversight and advisement regarding the design the trial, which brings the regulatory agency into the process before any potential filings for new drug approvals.
Ultimately, the groundbreaking design is intended to steer clinical trials away from the model in which large numbers of patients are screened to find a relatively small number of individuals who may benefit from the study drug.
Such trials not only are expensive and time-consuming for industry, but are also “wasted opportunities for patients,” said Papadimitrakopoulou.
For further information about the trial, visit www.Lung-MAP.org.