Researchers reported a number of important findings in lung cancer treatment at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

Immunotherapy pembrolizumab studied as first-line treatment for NSCLC

According to results from the phase III KEYNOTE-042 trial, certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) respond better to pembrolizumab as a first-line treatment than to standard of care chemotherapy.

Depending on the level of PD-L1 expression shown in their tumors, patients with NSCLC treated with first-line pembrolizumab lived 4 to 8 months longer than those who received chemotherapy. PD-L1 is a protein that allows some cells to avoid an attack by the immune system.

What Patients Need to Know

The trial results indicate that pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy, could be a treatment option for patients with advanced NSCLC without EGFR or ALK mutations and whose tumors express PD-L1 at the level of ≥ 1 percent.

Chemotherapy with or without pembrolizumab studied in advanced squamous NSCLC

KEYNOTE-407, an international placebo-controlled phase III trial, evaluated the use of chemotherapy (carboplatin-paclitaxel/nab-paclitaxel) with or without the immunotherapy pembrolizumab in patients with advanced squamous cell NSCLC who were not previously treated with chemotherapy.

What Patients Need to Know

Patients who received chemotherapy plus pembrolizumab, compared with chemotherapy alone, had improved median overall survival and progression-free survival as well as improved response rates and duration of response. These results were seen in all PD-L1 subgroups and no new safety concerns were identified.

Addition of immunotherapy atezolizumab to chemotherapy studied for treatment of advanced squamous cell NSCLC

IMpower131 is an international, randomized phase III trial that evaluated adding the immunotherapy atezolizumab to the chemotherapy combinations of carboplatin/paclitaxel and carboplatin/nab-paclitaxel in patients with advanced squamous cell NSCLC. The patients in the study had not previously been treated with chemotherapy.

What Patients Need to Know

Regardless of the level of PD-L1 expression, the median progression-free survival was improved with the addition of atezolizumab as compared with chemotherapy alone

Phase III trial compares EGFR inhibitors in treatment of EGFR-mutated advanced NSCLC

The ARCHER 1050 trial showed that the EGFR inhibitor dacomitinib resulted in a significant benefit in overall survival in patients with advanced EGFR-mutated NSCLC compared to another EGFR inhibitor, gefitinib.

What Patients Need to Know

ARCHER 1050 represents the first randomized phase III trial that directly compares EGFR inhibitors to evaluate an overall survival benefit.