Choueiri Shares Highlights From the 2021 Kidney Cancer Research Summit


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Toni Choueiri, MD, discusses key highlights from the 2021 Kidney Cancer Research Summit and exciting research efforts underway in renal cell carcinoma.

Toni Choueiri, MD

Toni Choueiri, MD

The 2021 Kidney Cancer Research Summit (KCRS) brought together clinicians, researchers, patients, and kidney cancer advocates to discuss the latest updates in basic science, translational, and clinical research within the realm of kidney cancer, according to Toni Choueiri, MD, who added that for many, this was the first in-person conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The third annual meeting, which had a hybrid format, featured insights from 36 experts who discussed topics ranging from tumor evolution/mechanisms of lethality to innovative non-immunotherapy–related therapeutics and monitoring, to updates in non–clear cell disease, to immunotherapy advances, to clinical and scientific updates in kidney cancer in the form of recent clinical trial results, translational research updates, and important frontline approaches and emerging agents.

In an interview with OncLive® during the 2021 KCRS, Choueiri, member of the Executive Steering Committee of the meeting; director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology and Kidney Cancer Center; senior physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, discussed key highlights from the conference and exciting research efforts underway in renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

OncLive®: What was the goal of the 2021 KCRS?

Choueiri: KCRS launched 2 years ago, and [the effort is dedicated] to [bringing] the kidney cancer community together; this includes clinical investigators, translational researchers, [those working with] basic science, and even patients and their advocates. [The conference] was fueled by grants for kidney cancer [from the] Department of Defense, which started at $10 million in 2017, and is now up to $50 million. We wanted to [bring] everyone together to focus on one thing: [figuring out how] we can cure this disease forever. [Kidney cancer] is one of the top 10 cancers to affect men and women both in the United States and worldwide.

You moderated a session on clinical and scientific updates in kidney cancer, where recent clinical trial results were shared, along with translational research updates and information on clinical trials in progress. What efforts were you most excited to learn more about?

We wanted to [have] coverage from the laboratory to clinic. Even clinically, a lot of new data were presented during this meeting in the form of an oral session or a rapid session; [some of these presentations were delivered by] mentees, junior colleagues, and fellows. Hopefully, we can [keep] them interested in kidney cancer [research] forever.

We covered updates from the phase 3 KEYNOTE-564 study [NCT03142334] adjuvant trial and new data from the phase 3 CheckMate-9ER trial [NCT03141177] with cabozantinib [Cabometyx] and nivolumab [Opdivo]. [We also saw] new data and survival updates from the phase 3

KEYNOTE-581/CLEAR trial [NCT02811861]; notably, [earlier findings from the trial supported] the recent approval of pembrolizumab [Keytruda] plus lenvatinib [Lenvima] in [patients with] metastatic RCC.

Is there any research that you're specifically involved in that you wanted to highlight?

We're starting an effort in cellular therapies [for patients with] RCC as part of a larger effort in solid tumors. These [therapies] have become somewhat standard in some hematologic malignancies. We [will] continue to focus on [the development of agents with] upstream targets of VEGF, such as HIF-2α inhibitors. Now, we have the HIF-2α inhibitor belzutifan [MK-6482], which was just approved for von Hippel-Lindau–associated RCC and is now [under examination in] clinical trials focused [in patients with] clear cell RCC. I expect other HIF-2α inhibitors to be developed [in the future].

We continue to be very interested in combining drugs [for evaluation in clinical] trials and we have several trials [that are examining] 3-drug [combinations]. We [also] continue to be interested in other immunotherapy-based combinations that [extend] beyond PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors. [Moreover,] we have vaccine studies [that are generating excitement], and we're trying to focus [efforts] on [optimizing drugs for] the 20% to 40% of [patients with] MET-driven papillary RCC.

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