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Categories:  Research

Clinical trial for lung cancer therapy to begin

Lawrence Feldman

Lawrence Feldman

Patients are being recruited for a clinical trial of a new immunotherapy combination for treating metastatic non-small cell lung cancer at UIC.

Lung cancer affects approximately 415,000 Americans and is the leading cancer killer in both men and women, accounting for about 27 percent of all cancer deaths.

“Lung cancer is a major killer, largely affecting minorities and underserved populations, and the pressing need for clinical research and screening programs in our communities is a top priority for our center,” said Robert Winn, associate vice chancellor of community-based practice and director of the Cancer Center.

Lawrence Feldman, associate professor of clinical medicine in the College of Medicine, said that while immunotherapy treatment, which stimulates the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, is a promising area of research and treatment for lung cancer, it has limitations.

“Over the last several years, immuno-oncology has been very successful in the treatment of both lung and head and neck cancer,” said Feldman, who is the study’s principal investigator. “While it’s an amazing advance in the treatment of these cancers, immunotherapy does not yet benefit all patients. We need to find additional compounds or ways to improve the benefit of these drugs for more patients.”

Feldman said as many as two-thirds of lung cancer patients do not benefit substantially from current immunotherapy treatments.

The trial will test the dosing and efficacy of a phase II drug called Imprime PGG used in combination with a commonly administered immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab. Pembrolizumab helps stop cancers from disabling the immune system’s production of cancer-killing T-cells. Imprime PGG helps T-cells recognize and kill tumor cells.

As many as 36 patients will be enrolled in the trial, which will have two parts. The first will determine the maximum safe dose of Imprime PGG when used in combination with pembrolizumab. The second will estimate progression-free survival — the length of time the drugs control the cancer before it worsens.

“This new trial brings together a promising combination approach that we believe may increase patient responses to pembrolizumab and ultimately improve the lives of patients with non-small cell lung cancer,” Feldman said.

Patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer whose cancer worsened during or after treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy, may be eligible to participate in the study. More information about this clinical trial, including full eligibility criteria, is online.

UIC is the first of five sites in the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium to enroll patients. Additional members of the consortium expect to open this trial to patients in the coming months.

This trial is funded by Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., developer of KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), and by Biothera Pharmaceuticals, Inc., developer of Imprime PGG.