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Jun 17, 2022

Guest host Dr. Vamsi Velcheti, of the NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center, and Dr. Brian Henick, of the Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, discuss advances in KRAS-mutated lung cancer in the KRYSTAL-1 trial, and the association of ctDNA with overall survival in the NADIM trial, as well as other key advances in lung cancer presented at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting.




Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: Hello, everyone! This is Dr. Vamsi Velcheti, I'm your guest host for the ASCO Daily News podcast, today. I'm an associate professor and medical director for the Thoracic Oncology Program at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health.

My guest today is Dr. Brian Henick, an associate director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program, and assistant professor of Medicine at Columbia University's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. We'll be discussing key abstracts in lung cancer that were featured at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting.

Our full disclosures are available in the notes and disclosures of all guests on the podcast can be found on the transcripts at

Brian, it's great to speak with you today.

Dr. Brian Henick: Thank you so much, Vamsi, and ASCO Daily News for letting me join you to discuss these abstracts.

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: So, let's dive in. So, it's an exciting ASCO Annual Meeting. And I hope you had a great time at the Meeting. So, let's start off with the LBA9009 and KRYSTAL-1 clinical trial.

The study showed the activity of adagrasib in patients with KRAS-G12C mutant non-small cell lung cancer and active untreated brain mets. So, what is the key takeaway from this trial?

Dr. Brian Henick: Well, Dr. Sabari presented some encouraging data on this important population. As we know, patients with active central nervous system (CNS) metastases represent a population of unmet medical need who are often excluded from clinical trials. So, it's a credit to the investigators for including this cohort.

As Dr. Sabari noted, and as Dr. Goldberg emphasized in her discussion of the abstract, the measured CNS penetration of adagrasib compares favorably with other CNS active compounds from other settings. The overall response rate was 35%, with a disease control rate of 80%. But impressively, the median duration of intracranial response and progression-free survival (PFS) wasn’t reached.

This certainly seems to be a CNS active compound, and we'll need to see how sotorasib stacks up in their comparable cohort. Ideally, we'd have randomized data to prove superiority over the standard of care, but we may be a few steps away from that.

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: So, Brian, in terms of CNS mets, how big of a problem is it in patients with KRAS G12C mutant lung cancers?

Dr. Brian Henick: We know that CNS metastases are a big problem for G12C mutant lung cancer. The rates have been quoted as high as up to 42% of patients. And in particular, as you know, Vamsi, a lot of times trials often don't include, specifically, cohorts with active untreated brain metastases. And so, this is a very unique cohort in that sense.

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: I just want to highlight that we really don't know the differential efficacy of sotorasib and adagrasib in the CNS met population because the trials were CodeBreak 100 and other trials and data readouts from sotorasib did not include patients with untreated brain mets. We did, however, [see] CNS progression-free survival data that go in line with sotorasib. So, it's really important to see that data from sotorasib.

Dr. Brian Henick: I definitely look forward to seeing that.

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: So, let's talk about Abstract 8501. The primary endpoint that was presented at ASCO [Annual Meeting] was the pathologic complete response to chemotherapy and nivo vs. chemotherapy as a new adjuvant treatment for resectable stage 3, a non-small cell lung cancer. This was the phase 2 NADIM trial. So, what do you think about this study? And what's your key takeaway from the study?

Dr. Brian Henick: Dr. Provencio from Spain presented data from this randomized study as you said, of nivo plus carbo taxol compared to carbo taxol as neoadjuvant therapy for potentially resectable stage 3-A and B non-small cell lung cancer.

So, I did want to compare this to the randomized data that we have from Checkmate 816, which interestingly allowed for earlier-stage disease as low as 1-B. And they also allowed for more flexibility in the choice of platinum doublet regimens.

This study, NADIM 2, employs 2:1 versus 1:1 randomization, which we saw in Checkmate 816. Another important difference was that NADIM 2 required adjuvant nivolumab for 6 months in the study arm, whereas Checkmate 816 didn't include any immunotherapy in the adjuvant setting, but they allowed for a standard of care chemotherapy. In NADIM 2, the control arm didn't include any adjuvant therapy.

In keeping with the impressive improvements over historical pathologic complete response rates of about 5%, this chemotherapy-IO regimen yielded a path complete response (CR) rate of 36.8%. It also showed a major pathological response, which again is defined as less than 10% viable tumor of 52.6%, and an overall response rate of 75.4%.

So, it looks like there's a benefit that's happening upfront with the immunotherapy and chemotherapy as opposed to this just being an adjuvant phenomenon. This is also in keeping with data that we saw with Checkmate 816, as well as neoadjuvant atezo plus chemotherapy in the phase 2 study that was led by Catherine Shu and colleagues here at Columbia a few years ago.

Overall, this is more encouraging data for the neoadjuvant use of immunotherapy. The earlier immunotherapy marches into the treatment course of patients with lung cancer, the greater the cost of toxicity. So, I think an important thing for us to focus on going forward is trying to develop strategies to better identify the patients that are most likely to benefit.

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: So, Brian, I think from a practical standpoint, now that we have approval for neoadjuvant immunotherapy and adjuvant immunotherapy, we have some practical challenges in terms of how we manage our patients.

Of course, the new adjuvant is very appealing because it's only 3 cycles of chemoimmunotherapy, but the challenge though, is a majority of the patients don't have a CR, or a significant proportion of the patients have an ongoing response or significant residual disease at the time of surgery.

So, the question then would be what do you do after surgery if they're having an ongoing response? Do you think 3 cycles of immunotherapy are inadequate systemic therapy for these patients?

Dr. Brian Henick: It's a really important question, Vamsi. I think until the data is mature, we're just kind of limited by the extent of what the data tells us so far, and then we have to kind of do our best as the treating doctor to navigate the patient's situation.

So, tools that we'd still have available to us in the adjuvant setting that are approved are things like chemotherapy and radiation, leveraging things like circulating tumor DNA, I think maybe a promising path forward, as well to help guide strategies there, but I think until the data is mature, it has to be highly patient-focused to figure out what seems to be most appropriate there. How are you navigating those situations, Vamsi?

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: Yeah, as you said, it is very challenging. I think we need more data. And of course, the challenge now is like, if you use immunotherapy in the new adjuvant setting, it's very likely you're not going to get insurance authorization for 1 year of adjuvant atezolizumab.

So, we really need studies to optimize treatment paradigms here. As you suggested, maybe circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA)-based approaches to look at residual disease, I think, that would be one great way to do it.

Let's move on to the next abstract, Brian. I found Abstract 9001 really interesting. It's a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pooled analysis that looked at outcomes of first-line immune checkpoint inhibitors, with or without chemotherapy based on the KRAS mutation status and PD-L1 expression. So, what is your take on this abstract and how do you think this is going to impact our practice?

Dr. Brian Henick: So, Dr. Nakajima and colleagues explored the observation from individual trials that patients with KRAS-mutant lung cancer seem to have better responses than wild type with immunotherapy (IO) alone. But the favorability of these responses seems to be abrogated with chemotherapy-IO.

We know that KRAS accounts for 25% of oncogene-driven non-small cell lung cancer predominantly at amino acid 12. And with the emergence of direct inhibitors of G12C, understanding the clinical features of these tumors may be critical to inform optimal integration of this new class of drugs and also to make sure that we've optimized treatment algorithms for KRAS patients in general.

So, this study's authors at the FDA pulled data from 12 registrational clinical trials that were investigating first-line checkpoint inhibitor-containing regimens and they found no significant difference between KRAS wild type and mutant for overall survival regardless of the regimen used.

The best outcomes were seen with chemoimmunotherapy regardless of KRAS status. This retrospective analysis does suggest that the notion of there being lesser benefit from chemoimmunotherapy from Dr. Gadgeel's study might not hold up in the overall population, but I think it raises important questions, like, are all KRAS mutations alike? The absence of KRAS mutation status for a majority of patients included in these studies limits the interpretation of the data. And also, the absence of commutation status makes it a little harder to interpret. And other important questions remain such as how G12C inhibitors will factor in? What were your thoughts, Vamsi?

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: No, I completely agree with you, Brian. I think we need more data and we know that commutation status is a very important aspect in terms of KRAS-directed therapies. And of course, with a lot of promising data from these KRAS inhibitors, there's an interest in moving these drugs into the front-line therapy for patients with KRAS mutations.

But I think it's going to be quite challenging to incorporate them into the front-line therapies and we clearly will need better characterization of these patients with KRAS mutant [lung cancer] to further personalize treatment in the frontline setting for these patients.

So, let's move on to the next abstract. This is the lung map study, Abstract 9004. This is a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the lung map study, looking at overall survival from a phase 2 randomized study of ramucirumab and pembrolizumab, what's the standard of care in patients with advanced non—small cell lung cancer previously treated with immunotherapy. So, what were your key takeaway points here from this study?

Dr. Brian Henick: So first of all, it's very exciting to see data from this very ambitious long map sub-study yield a positive result. Whereas many of the arms of this study were biomarker-guided, Dr. Reckamp presented the results from pembro plus ramucirumab as compared to the standard of care in unmarked patients with non-small cell lung cancer who had progressed after prior treatment with chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

The data seems to suggest that pembro plus ramucirumab may be better tolerated than the standard of care chemo-containing regimens, as the experimental regimen had fewer serious adverse events.

Pembro plus ramucirumab had a median overall survival of 14.6 months as compared to 11.6 months in the control arm and this was statistically significant. The PFS difference wasn't significant, but there was a late divergence in the curves. Dr. Bestvina nicely summarized some of the study's limitations such as the mixture of control regimens used, and there were really interesting signals that were found on subgroup analysis, such as benefit in those with mixed histology tumors, STK11 mutant tumors, and those who received chemotherapy prior to immunotherapy.

The subgroups deserve further attention in the future. For now, this regimen may be an appealing option as an alternative to chemotherapy for the right patients. What do you think?

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: Yeah, I agree, Brian. I think it's a really promising combination. We've always seen some synergy with VEGF inhibitors and immunotherapy in multiple studies and multiple tumor types. So, we really need to develop better ways to select patients for VEGF combination-based approaches in lung cancer.

So, let's move on to another interesting study. This is Abstract 9000. This explores the outcomes of anti-PD-L1 therapy with or without chemotherapy for first-line, metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with a PD-L1 score of greater than 50%. So, this is an FDA pooled analysis. So, what were your key takeaways from this abstract?

Dr. Brian Henick: I thought this question was really well suited for a large pooled retrospective analysis and our colleagues at the FDA didn't let us down here. The question really was what's the optimal approach for patients with non-small cell lung cancer with greater than 50% PD-L1 in view of the absence of direct comparisons between these arms in prospective studies?

I thought one of the most striking findings from Dr. Akinboro's presentation was the dismally low rate of underrepresented minority patients that were included in these registration trials.

As far as the findings for the patients who were studied, although the Kaplan-Meier curves for overall survival showed early separation, the difference wasn't statistically significant.

Subgroup analysis revealed a trend towards better outcomes for immunotherapy alone among patients who are [age] 75 and above, suggesting that this may need to be parsed out as a unique population in subsequent studies.

But in all, our equipoise as a field on whether to include chemoimmunotherapy-based first-line regimens should persist and should be guided, in my opinion, largely by clinical considerations. Can the patient tolerate chemotherapy? Do you need a rapid response? Are there other things that you thought in hearing all this, Vamsi?

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: Yeah, absolutely. I think I am still struggling with the decision of whether to add chemotherapy for patients with greater than 50%. To a large extent, it's actually a clinical decision. In some patients who have a large disease burden, I tend to kind of opt for adding chemotherapy to immunotherapy in the front-line setting.

But of course, we need more data here. And this is actually a very helpful piece of information from the FDA. And as you pointed out briefly, Brian, I think the fact that there are very few underrepresented patients in the pooled analysis, I think kind of speaks to the need for addressing increased diversity in clinical trial accruals.

I think this is a great segue to also talk about Abstract 9012, talking about disparities in access to immunotherapy globally. This is a study from India looking at 15,000 patients who were checkpoint inhibitor eligible and who have very low rates of uptake of immunotherapy.

This is something that reflects the global team of the ASCO Annual Meeting talking about disparities and improving access to treatments in underserved minority populations here in the United States, and also globally, in the developing world, the disparities in terms of access to care are humongous.

So, what are your thoughts, Brian? And also, if you could highlight some of the work that you're doing at Columbia about disparities, I think that would be great.

Dr. Brian Henick: Absolutely! I think access to medications is a really humbling topic for those of us who are involved in developmental therapeutics, particularly with the transformational impact we've seen with the advent of immunotherapy over the last decade-plus.

Dr. Ravikrishna’s presentation is therefore extremely important. He described very low rates of uptake of immunotherapy by indication. And perhaps most strikingly, the discrepancy in uptake by patients' ability to pay for therapy with the vast majority of immunotherapy received by those who are private is very concerning.

Even if the definition of restricted access was permissive, for example, I didn't see mention of the cancer stage as an eligibility factor, the fact that this represents a single referral center's data doesn't bode well for uptake elsewhere.

So, I think we need to continue to work as a field on prioritizing strategies to help overcome these gaps, but good quality data such as this study is an important first step. And to that point, Vamsi, I'm very excited to be working with you in collaboration on an observational study for patients with lung cancer from underserved minority populations with lung cancer in New York City so that we can better characterize access to care, efficacy, and toxicity in this population.

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: Thank you, Brian. I'd really like to thank you for sharing your valuable insights with us today on the ASCO Daily News Podcast. We really appreciate it. Brian, thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Brian Henick: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Vamsi Velcheti: And thank you to all our listeners for joining in today. You will find links to all the abstracts discussed today in the transcript of this episode. Finally, if you value the insights that you hear on the ASCO Daily News Podcast, please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you so much.



The purpose of this podcast is to educate and inform. This is not a substitute for professional medical care and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions.

Guests on this podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. Guest statements on the podcast do not express the opinions of ASCO. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy should not be construed as an ASCO endorsement.



Dr. Vamsi Velcheti:

Honoraria: Honoraria

Consulting or Advisory Role: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Foundation Medicine, AstraZeneca/MedImmune, Novartis, Lilly, EMD Serono, GSK, Amgen

Research Funding (Inst.): Genentech, Trovagene, Eisai, OncoPlex Diagnostics, Alkermes, NantOmics, Genoptix, Altor BioScience, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Atreca, Heat Biologics, Leap Therapeutics, RSIP Vision, GlaxoSmithKline

Dr. Brian Henick: 

Consultant/Advisory: Ideaya, AstraZeneca

Research Support: Neximmune