More than seven years after the start of one of the first clinical trials of the immunotherapy drug Nivolumab ( Opdivo ), researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have reported that the five-year survival estimate for a limited subset of people with advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer taking the drug is 16%, compared with a historical survival rate for that group of 1 to 4%.

A summary of the trial data, gleaned from follow-up information gathered on a total of 129 patients since it began in 2010, was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research ( AACR ) Annual Meeting 2017.

According to results of the data analysis of the 129 patients with advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer treated at more than 11 hospitals nationwide, including The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 16 survived at least 58 months ( nearly five years ).
Twelve of the 16 received no further therapy and showed no evidence of worsening disease at the time the data were analyzed in November 2016. The other four received further chemotherapy or joined other clinical trials. Nine of the 16 are male.

A small subset of nonsmall cell lung cancer patients appear to respond to Nivolumab and have beaten the odds that most patients with this cancer face.

It’s clear that the patients who beat the survival odds are in some ways truly unique biologically, and the goal now is to discover exactly how immunotherapy is keeping their disease in check.

Applying their analysis more broadly, researchers estimate that 16% of patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer who receive Nivolumab will survive beyond five years.

Researchers who conducted the trial have not been able to identify specific genes or proteins shared by the 16 patients that could be linked to long-term survival.

Typically, only 1 to 4% of patients with advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer survive five years, a form of lung cancer that strikes an estimated 222,500 Americans each year and accounts for 85% of all lung cancers in the United States.

Apart from Nivolumab, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for lung cancer therapy in 2015, standard treatments include various types of chemotherapy.

Patients in the study received Nivolumab once every two weeks for up to two years.

Researchers caution that the study’s value is limited by the fact that patients who received Nivolumab were not directly compared with patients who did not receive the drug. ( Xagena )

Source: Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, 2017

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