AstraZeneca’s immunotherapy drugs, durvalumab and tremelimumab, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. The two drugs are approved as a combination and with chemotherapy. Durvalumab is the generic name for Imfinzi and tremelimumab is the generic name for Imjudo.
The approval was based on the results from the POSEIDON phase 3 clinical trial, which finished in September 2021, in which participants receiving the immunotherapy and chemotherapy combination displayed notable survival benefits.
Durvalumab was previously tested on patients with locally advanced small cell lung cancer, or stage 2 and 3 lung cancer patients, and showed significant increase in survival.
The immunotherapy drug has also had positive effects on mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma is similar to lung cancer most of the time, as mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lung cavity. Mesothelioma is also caused solely by asbestos exposure. Lung cancer has many causes, and asbestos is one of them.
This is the first FDA approval of tremelimumab for any type of cancer, not just lung cancer.
Durvalumab + Tremelimumab + Chemotherapy Improves Lung Cancer Survival
The POSEIDON clinical trial administered a combination of immunotherapy drugs, durvalumab and tremelimumab, over the course of five cycles along with four cycles of chemotherapy to some trial participants. The remaining participants received chemotherapy treatment only. The trial measured participant’s responses to treatment in terms of overall survival and progression-free survival.
Results showed that participants who received the immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatment combination experienced significant improvement in overall survival and progression-free survival compared to those who received only chemotherapy treatment.
Participants receiving durvalumab, tremelimumab and chemotherapy had a reduced risk of the progression of their cancer or death by 28% compared to the participants receiving only chemotherapy. Participants receiving the treatment combination also showed a 23% decrease in the risk of death compared to many other chemotherapy options.
Overall median survival was 14 months for participants in the treatment combination group and 11.7 months for participants undergoing chemotherapy alone. Median progression-free survival was 6.2 months for participants receiving durvalumab, tremelimumab and chemotherapy, and 4.8 months for those receiving only chemotherapy.
33% of participants were alive two years after immunotherapy plus chemotherapy, while only 22% of participants receiving just chemotherapy were alive after two years. The 3-year survival mark proved even better results – 25% for the combination compared to 13.6% for chemotherapy alone.
Immunotherapy for Lung Cancer
There are several treatment options available to most lung cancer patients, but the effects of immunotherapy seem to surpass most other lung cancer treatments. Immunotherapy helps strengthen your immune system in the fight against disease or bacteria without killing healthy immune cells or weakening the body.
The most common type of immunotherapy for lung cancer is immune checkpoint inhibition, which uses drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. Durvalumab is a checkpoint inhibitor that prevents the binding of T cells and cancer receptors. Checkpoint inhibitors, like durvalumab, help your T cells accurately identify and attack cancer.
Another type of immunotherapy drug is monoclonal antibodies, which produce antibodies to target cancer biomarkers, or protein antigens. Tremelimumab is a type of immunotherapy monoclonal antibody. Immunotherapy drugs, like tremelimumab, generate antibodies that stick to antigens, helping the immune system to target and fight off cancer cells.
Immunotherapy for lung cancer, and many other types of cancer, is an emerging treatment that is being tested often. Today, immunotherapy is reaching new heights and outshining the more common treatments like chemotherapy. The recently FDA-approved immunotherapy regimen can give new hope to lung cancer patients and their loved ones.
Sources & Author
IMFINZI and IMJUDO with chemotherapy approved in the US for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. AstraZeneca. Retrieved from: https://www.astrazeneca-us.com/media/press-releases/2022/imfinzi-and-imjudo-with-chemotherapy-approved-in-the-us-for-patients-with-metastatic-non-small-cell-lung-cancer-11112022.html. Accessed: 11/15/22.
IMFINZI and tremelimumab with chemotherapy improved progression-free survival by 28% and overall survival by 23% in 1st-line Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer vs. chemotherapy. AstraZeneca. Retrieved from: https://www.astrazeneca-us.com/content/az-us/media/press-releases/2021/imfinzi-and-tremelimumab-with-chemotherapy-improved-progression-free-survival-by-28-and-overall-survival-by-23-in-1st-line-stage-iv-non-small-cell-lung-cancer-vs-chemotherapy-09092021.html. Accessed: 11/15/22.
Sources & Author