Cancer care

News in brief: Pembrolizumab in previously treated mesothelioma; COX-2 disappoints in CRC; Joe Biden plans cancer research agency

Tuesday, 13 Apr 2021


Pembrolizumab shows promise in previously treated mesothelioma

Patients with previously-treated advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) may have tumour responses lasting up to a year or more following pembrolizumab therapy, a study involving Australian patients has shown.

Results from a cohort of 118 patients with MPM in the phase 2 KEYNOTE-158 study showed that an objective response rate of 8% after pembrolizumab monotherapy. The duration of response ranged from  4·0  to  33·9+ month (median 14.3)  and  60% of objective responses were ongoing at 12 months. The antitumour activity was seen irrespective of PD-L1 expression, both in patients with PD-L1-positive and PD-L1-negative tumours, and with manageable toxicity, according to the paper published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The study was conducted in 14 countries and included patients treated at Blacktown Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW.


Coxib has no anti-tumour effect in stage III CRC

While aspirin and COX-2 inhibitors have been shown to have a primary prevention effect against colorectal polyps and cancer, there appears to be no benefit on disease recurrence or survival in patients with non-metastatic colorectal cancer, according to a study from the US.

Published in JAMA, a randomised controlled trial involving 2526 patients with stage III colon cancer, showed that the addition of celecoxib to standard adjuvant FOLFOX therapy did not significantly improve disease-free survival compared to placebo (76.3% vs 73.4% at 3 years; hazard ratio for disease recurrence or death, 0.89).

The study authors, from the Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber/Partners CancerCare, Boston, said it was possible that that COX-2–independent pathways were the key actor in any anti-neoplastic effect and affected by aspirin more effectively than by celecoxib.


US president wants agency to cure cancer

US president Joe Biden is proposing a new US $6.5 billion (A$8.5 billion) super agency to achieve the goal of a ‘cure for cancer’.

The Biden administration has outlined spending plans that would see a newly-created Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H) set up  within the National Institutes of Health to prioritise risky and innovative research into cancer and other diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

APRA-H aims to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs,” the White House request says.

Joe Biden made pledges about supporting cancer research in his campaign after his son Beau Biden died from brain cancer in 2015, and was on record as pledging to “end cancer as we know it.”

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