During this year´s Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), that came to a close yesterday in Chicago, ecancerTV interviewed several leading experts to discuss their latest findings presented throughout the course of the meeting as well as roadmap next directions towards rendering cancer treatment and care more precise for an increasing number of patients.
From VHIO, they selected Rodrigo Dienstmann and Enriqueta Felip, Principal Investigators of our Oncology Data Science (ODysSey) and Thoracic Tumors & Head and Neck Cancer Groups, respectively, to describe the data they delivered during this year´s ASCO, 02 – 06 June, 2017.
In the first of ecancer´s VHIO interviews themed Molecular Profiles and the Future of Adjuvant Therapy, Rodrigo Dienstmann discusses the importance of correlating clinical parameters with molecular profiling to more precisely match individual patients to clinical trials as well as better understand the biology and prognostic impact of combined multi-molecular markers with real-world data.
Considering the advent of novel techniques and technologies aimed at better detecting and tracking disease, he highlights the power of blood-based liquid biopsies in unmasking minimal residual disease and the promise of molecular profiling in identifying the drivers of metastatic spread. These two approaches are increasingly enabling a more personalized selection of optimal therapies, either as single agents or in combination with other novel treatments, aimed at increasing response and putting the brakes on the molecular culprits that spur cancer progression in individual patients. Wrapping up, concerning the future for combination therapies, he sees targeted treatments combined with less toxic novel immunotherapies as the way forward – particularly in halting disease progression for longer periods and even eliminating minimal residual disease.
At VHIO, Rodrigo´s ODysSey team focuses firmly on validating molecular subclasses of disease and optimizing biomarkers for novel therapies according the specific cancer vulnerabilities. In collaboration with other VHIO groups including Cancer Genomics (led by Ana Vivancos), and Molecular Oncology (headed by Paolo Nuciforo), Rodrigo´s group is classifying colorectal cancer more precisely to be able to better guide the prognosis of each individual patient as well as use intrinsic biological fingerprints to more accurately inform treatment decisions.
As a reflection of his expertise and contribution to date in advancing personalized therapies against cancer, Rodrigo was selected as Speaker during this year´s ASCO Meeting´s Educational Session on: Personalizing Adjuvant Therapy for Stage II/III Colorectal Cancer. His talk, Molecular Profiles and the Future of Adjuvant Therapy, evidenced the prognostic value of blood-based liquid biopsies in the detection of minimal residual disease – reporting very high accuracy rates, and that ctDNA positive cases will eventually require personalized adjuvant therapy decisions to be based on the intrinsic microenvironment features of individual tumors.
The second VHIO ecancerTV interview, Dose escalation results of ceritinib and nivolumab for ALK NSCLC, focused on the results reported by first author Enriqueta Felip, Principal Investigator of VHIO´s Thoracic Tumours & Head and Neck Group, as an oral presentation during an ASCO Session on Developmental Therapeutics – Clinical Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. More specifically, Enriqueta highlights findings from a phase I multi-center international trial designed to assess the safety and dose escalation of the combination ceritinib plus nivolumab (NIVO) in patients with advanced ALK+ non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – stage IIIB/IV.
Led by VHIO, this is the first ever study designed to assess whether the pairing of this targeted therapy against ALK with the NIVO PD1 inhibitor provides sustained clinical benefit in these patients. Enrolled patients were divided into two groups: those previously treated with ALK inhibitors or chemotherapy, and those who had not received prior therapy.
Enriqueta explains that while the ceritinib-NIVO combination proved active in these patients, there was a high degree of toxicity resulting in many adverse events including severe incidence of rashes, and confirms that the protocol on the administration of this combination is being amended for future trials with an alternative dosage regimen. She also considers how the interplay between ALK inhibition and PD1 targeting may have resulted in this severe reaction.
In addition to Enriqueta´s important contributions to early clinical drug development and more precisely matching novel therapies to the specificities of patients with thoracic tumors, she is currently leading pioneering research to assess new technologies for new treatments where liquid biopsy meets immunotherapy. In collaobration with Ana Vivancos, Principal Investigator of VHIO´s Cancer Genomics Group, she is leading a project to explore Platelet RNA as liquid biopsy technology that may more accurately and effectively guide immune-based strategies for the treatment of patients with NSCLC.