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Immunotherapy Rapidly Redefining Treatment in Bladder Cancer

Allie Strickler @Alliejayes
Published: Tuesday, Dec 06, 2016

Daniel P. Petrylak, MD

Daniel P. Petrylak, MD

Novel immunotherapy agents continue to move through the pipeline in the treatment landscape of bladder cancer, and they show no signs of slowing down.

In May 2016, the field saw the accelerated approval of the PD-L1 inhibitor atezolizumab (Tecentriq), which was based on positive results from the phase II IMvigor 210 study.

Then, in October 2016, the FDA granted a priority review designation to nivolumab (Opdivo) as a treatment for patients with locally advanced unresectable or metastatic urothelial carcinoma following progression on a platinum-based therapy.

Most recently, findings from the KEYNOTE-045 trial demonstrated a 27% reduction in the risk of progression or death when patients with advanced urothelial carcinoma who had progressed after prior treatment were treated with pembrolizumab (Keytruda).

Now that these agents have established their place in the second-line setting, Daniel P. Petrylak, MD, is confident that they could demonstrate equivalent efficacy in the frontline.

“If we see confirmation of the data from IMVIGOR 210, where platinum-ineligible patients had a 15-month median survival, it’s very likely that these will move upfront,” he said.

In an interview with OncLive, Petrylak, professor of Medicine and Urology, Yale Cancer Center, provided a summary of his presentation on advances in bladder cancer from the recent 2016 Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium. He shed light on the emerging roles of both immunotherapy and targeted agents in the treatment of this disease.

OncLive: Please give an overview of your presentation.

Petrylak: In the past, bladder cancer did not have a standard second-line treatment. We know that, with gemcitabine and cisplatin, about a third of patients respond completely, about a third of patients have a partial response, and the last third don’t respond at all. The median survival is about 15 months. And in the past, chemotherapy was toxic and ineffective in this situation. At best, we were seeing survivals of approximately 9 months.

In 2013, a phase I trial was opened of atezolizumab in bladder cancer. More than 90 patients were treated on that study. About a quarter of the patients had a partial or complete response, and some of those patients are still durable today from that original trial. The exciting results we saw in this phase I trial went on to a phase II trial, which looked at atezolizumab at the same dosage in more than 300 patients with metastatic bladder cancer that failed platinum therapy. A very similar response rate was seen, and this led to the FDA approval of atezolizumab for metastatic bladder cancer.

As part of that IMvigor 210 trial, there was also a subsection that looked at patients who are not eligible for platinum-based therapy. This study included about 110 patients. They received atezolizumab, and they had a very similar survival to what we would see with gemcitabine/cisplatin for platinum-eligible patients. So this is very exciting, and this is moving forward in other clinical trials. And it’s also showing that checkpoint inhibition therapy is active in this disease.

There are other checkpoint inhibitors as well that are being evaluated. Durvalumab has about a 25% response rate. Pembrolizumab has recently been evaluated in a randomized trial compared with dealer’s choice of chemotherapy. And although we don’t know the data just yet, there was a recent press release that said that there was an advantage to pembrolizumab. So we would hope to see that that drug gets approved sometime this year for bladder cancer as well.




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