Advances in Immuno-Oncology Research

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Topics include: Treatment

Immuno-oncology—harnessing the body’s immune system to fight cancer—has been steadily showing promise in treating a variety of cancers, including melanoma and lung cancer. At the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, researcher Dr. Fadi Braiteh joined Patient Power to discuss how this approach is evolving and the important role of clinical trials in developing new treatment options. 

This program was produced in collaboration with US Oncology Research.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Carol Preston:

Hello everyone and welcome to Patient Power. I’m Carol Preston, and we’re at ASCO this week, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, talking to many of the researchers who are sharing information about the latest in treatments and encouraging news about diagnoses in cancer. And joining me from Nevada is Dr. Fadi Braiteh, and, Dr. Braiteh, would you give us a little more information about your credential and where you’re working?

Dr. Braiteh:         

Thank you for having me. I’m a medical oncologist and the director of the translation oncology programs with Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada and director of the GI malignancy programs. Translation oncology program is the program in the new drugs being developed from the labs to be administrated to patients and later on figuring out what drugs are going to have an impact on patients’ disease, survival, control disease and we develop it later on into further phases. 

Carol Preston:   

There’s so much work being done, and it’s very encouraging and a lot of hope for patients in immunotherapy, and I know that you have been instrumental and key in some of the studies that have been going on. Could you please enlighten us as to your perspective?

Dr. Braiteh:         

It has been a great couple of years for the field of immune-oncology. Now the work that has ultimately been fruitful now has its roots in many decades back in research and thousands and thousands of scientists, pharmaceutical companies and universities have been working on that, but ultimately it has been a great five years. The first FDA-approved drugs in the field dates back to 2011 with ipilimumab (Yervoy) for melanoma and then in the last year, 2014, we had two new drugs, both in melanoma, nivolumab (Opdivo) and the other drug is pembrolizumab (Keytruda). And this year we have one of the drugs, nivolumab, approved in a subset of lung cancer.

So I wanted to just put the frame that we already have these drugs on the market impacting some of the cancer, but there is much coming and this year we can—we’ve seen, for example, here at ASCO plenary session yesterday that ipilimumab, which the standard of care in 2011, is not anymore standard of care today. We have to combine it with ipilimumab plus nivolumab is the combination is much more impactful, not only on controlling the disease, but prolonging the life of patients, and there is a subset of patients that are living very long. We’re hoping that maybe this cure—we’re talking about stage IV melanoma. So this is to show how things are accelerated in a good way. It’s impacting a patient’s life. 

Carol Preston:   

We’ve heard a lot about combination therapy and taking some of the standard and adding some of these what they call checkpoint inhibitors, PD1 antibodies, and I know that you’ve been doing work in that area. Something also that we’ve been hearing is the frustration, if you will, about these antibodies—it’s not a one-size-fits-all, that it’s not working for everybody and so now that you’re getting very, very granular if you will to figure out the subtypes or the biomarkers where these medications will work for patients. 

Dr. Braiteh:         

Absolutely and to explain to the patients the two drugs that I mentioned one is called anti-CTLA4. That’s the back in 2011 made it to the market, and the newest two others I mentioned are anti-PD1, and there is more in development and we’re very excited about the anti-PDL1. For example, just earlier this morning this Monday, we’ve had the oral presentation of the anti-PDL1 in bladder cancer. There have been no new drugs in bladder cancer for 20 years, and that’s why the FDA gave a breakthrough designation for last year, because it’s very promising. And hopefully we can see it on the market available in the next two years hopefully.

To get to your point is the challenge is we have patient who stage IV disease go to—go into complete remission, or you have some patients they do significant benefit and some others not so much. We are at the quest of the markers. We think maybe the markers being PD1 and PDL1, which are specific proteins that are expressed on the cancer cells and on the immune cells. We call them the T cell may give us an insight. They’re giving us an insight, but that’s not the absolute answer.

There is much more to know about these drug,s and the second question as you mentioned is combination. And the combination with other checkpoint inhibitors, other components of the immune oncology world or enhancing the immune system to get rid of the cancer with a side effect or a safety profile of these drugs being amazing.

Carol Preston:   

One quick final takeaway for patients: what do you want them to know? 

Dr. Braiteh:         

I want them to know first and foremost talk to their doctors. Are there clinical trials for my disease? Solicit the doctors whether it’s in the office of your doctors, across the street or maybe takes a bit of a travel, few minutes, 30 minutes. It’s worth it, because it’s only with a partnership with the patients that agree to take the chance to be on these studies.

We will never on these clinical trials provide suboptimal treatment to the standard of care. And that’s what I want them to understand, and to take the chance and to be courageous with us because without the patient and the clinical trials that we’re combatting, we’re not going to win battle after battle the war against cancer. 

Carol Preston:   

Dr. Fadi Braiteh, so well said. There’s nothing really else to add about that right now. I’m Carol Preston at ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and you heard Dr. Braiteh say see a specialist. Seek out clinical trials, because that’s how everyone moves forward in battling cancer. Please remember that knowledge can be the best medicine of all.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on February 3, 2016