The University of Zurich Study Shows Immunotherapy Side Effects Can Mean Treatment is Working in NSCLC

Jun 18, 2019 | Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors, Immunology, Lung Cancer, Oncology

Antibody, Immunoglobulins

University of Zurich researchers have found that autoimmune skin toxicities in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) means patients may respond better to immune checkpoint inhibitors. The findings were recently published in JAMA Oncology.

The University of Zurich research reveals that autoimmune side effects may be associated with response to immunotherapy in patients with NSCLC based writes Katie Kosko of Cure Today.

The Study

The study was designed to assess responses to treatment, overall survival, progression-free survival and the emergence of autoimmune toxic effects. The Swiss researchers studied 73 patients with NSCLC who received wither Opdivo (nivolumab) or Keytruda (pembrolizumab), two different types of anti-PD-1 treatment. Bristol-Myers Squibb makes Opdivo and Merck makes Keytruda.

The patients mean age of 68.1 and 60% make were recruited from four different cancer centers over a two-year period. The study team collected lung and skin tumor samples in addition to peripheral blood mononuclear cells, which support pathology and biology study activity.

The Results

During the study, 25 patients developed autoimmune skin toxic effects due to investigational therapy. Those that experience effects were more likely to be incomplete or partial remission (68.2%) as compared to those who had progressive or stable disease (19.6%). The study team reported that the patients who experienced skin toxic effects fared better than those that did not.

Study investigator Lukas Flatz, a medical oncologist and professor at the University of Zurich reported that “We could show that patients that experience skin toxicity is more likely to respond to immunotherapy with so-called checkpoint inhibitors” based on an interview with CURE®.

Flatz also told the CURE® team that the Swiss investigators found nine T-cell antigens shared between tumor and skin T cells are critical cells supporting the immune system for fighting cancer. The T cells attack both tumor cells and skin cells hence the skin side effects.

Lead Research/Investigator

Lukas Flatz, University of Switzerland

The Flatz Lab

Note that Professor Flatz runs the “Flatz” Lab where the team focuses on the crossroads of clinical research and basic tumor immunology. The lab includes a blend of MDs, biologists, and bioinformaticians on their team, resulting in optimal cross-fertilization according to their website. The Flatz Lab is part of the Institute of Immunobiology and clinical studies are carried out in the comprehensive cancer center of the Kantonsspital St. Gallen, the leading hospital in Eastern Switzerland. Academically, Flatz Lab is affiliated with the University of Zurich so that their Ph.D. and MD students obtain their degrees at a world-class university. Additionally, Professor Flatz is a member of the faculty in Zurich.


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