Tag Archive for: standard of care

Clinical Trials for Myeloma Treatment | Essential Information for Patients

Clinical Trials for Myeloma Treatment | Essential Information for Patients from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How do clinical trials advance treatment options for myeloma? Dr. Omar Nadeem discusses the important role of clinical trials in improving patient care, key questions to ask your care team about trial participation, and the benefits of seeing a myeloma specialist. 

Dr. Omar Nadeem is the Clinical Director of the Myeloma Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program and Associate Director of the Multiple Myeloma Clinical Research Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Nadeem.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

I’d like to start with the importance of a patient’s healthcare team. What are the benefits to seeking care with a myeloma specialist, even if it’s just for a second opinion or a consult? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Yeah, so, myeloma is a little less than 2 percent of all cancers, and it’s the second most common blood cancer, so certainly not rare. With that being said, if you go to a general community practice, they don’t typically see too, too many patients with this disease. So, alongside that, we have so many different treatment options and combinations and these, as I mentioned, immune therapies.  

And other therapies that are only actually carried out at academic centers for now, such as stem cell transplants, and CAR T-cell therapy.  

I think it’s important to kind of meet with an academic provider just to get a sense of what the patient may be facing, both in that immediate time, but also in the future, because a lot of myeloma therapy is lifelong. And in that case, you do have to come up with a plan for your whole treatment in a way early. So, it’s important to kind of one: hear it from another person, and then two: really sort of figure out what the outlook would look like for the individual patient.  

With that being said, many of our myeloma regimens that are approved can very easily be given at the local provider, and that’s usually our preference, for patients to be treated closer to home. So, ultimately, this is another way for patients to get input about their treatment program, but also talk about the future.  

Katherine:

That makes sense. Specialists at academic medical centers are typically more involved in research and clinical trials. 

And patient participation is essential to advancing medicine. So, how do clinical trials impact myeloma care? 

Dr. Nadeem:

Well, everything that we have available today for myeloma therapy was once in a clinical trial. So, all these promising therapies usually start in early phase studies and move on to Phase II and Phase III studies, and then those are the ones that the FDA uses to approve a particular combination.  

So, it all depends on kind of where someone is in their disease course. It also kind of depends on what their preferences may be in terms of taking on something that is beyond standard of care. So, as part of any clinical trial in whatever phase it may be, whether its newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, even smoldering myeloma, which is one step before that, relapsed/refractory myeloma…  

At each step of the way, there are clinical trials that are there trying to improve upon what’s already out here, right? So, we are, despite all these amazing advances, unfortunately, the disease is still not curable for a vast majority of patients.  

In that case, how do we move to that cure, or how do we kind of advance the disease even beyond this? And a clinical trial is a way to do that.  

Katherine:

What type of patient is most appropriate for a clinical trial? 

Dr. Nadeem:

So, there are criteria that each clinical trial uses in terms of eligibility. Some of that has to do with the disease characteristic itself, kind of where somebody is in their disease course, but many times it’s also patients’ fitness, organ status in terms of kidney function, their blood count to some extent, heart function, etcetera. There are some sort of minimal prerequisite guidelines that we have to enroll patients in trials. So, it really, again, depends on where somebody is in their disease course and what they may be willing to take on beyond what may be offered to them as part of standard of care.  

Katherine:

What questions should patients be asking if they’re entrusted in participating in a clinical trial? 

Dr. Nadeem:

I think the important thing is to sort of first recognize what’s available to them as part of standard of care and then what the clinical trial is trying to answer.  

So, for example, if it’s newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, we now have quadruplet regimens that we give to patients at the time of their diagnosis, and then the next natural question for eligible patients that now comes up is whether they should do a stem cell transplant or not.  

And alongside that goes with all these advances in immune therapies, such as CAR T-cell therapies and bispecific antibodies. And there are now trials looking at those therapies and comparing them, for example, to stem cell transplant to try to answer the question “Can we get even beyond something like a stem cell transplant?”  

So, that’s one example of a trial where a patient may be interested in saying “Okay, well, a transplant may be my standard path, but what if I try to enroll in this study and get randomized, for example, to the CAR-T arm? Then, perhaps, I’m getting access to some of these therapies early and maybe that’s going to improve my outcomes.” 

What Should Endometrial Cancer Patients Know About Clinical Trials?

 

What Should Endometrial Cancer Patients Know About Clinical Trials? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Should endometrial cancer patients consider a clinical trial as a treatment option? Expert Dr. Emily Ko reviews the potential benefits of participating in a clinical trial.

Dr. Emily Ko is a gynecologic oncologist and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more about Dr. Ko.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Well, you just mentioned clinical trials, and I think it’s a good topic to cover a little bit. Why is it important for patients to actually consider enrolling? What are the benefits for them? 

Dr. Ko:

Sure. So, while we certainly have a good armamentarium of standard-of-care therapies already, and I should mention that does include our classic chemotherapy drugs like paclitaxel (Abraxane), carboplatin (Paraplatin), and even doxorubicin (Adriamycin), if you will, or doxorubicin Hcl (Doxil), there are the immunotherapy drugs now that have become standard of care as well, like pembrolizumab (Keytruda), but sometimes, despite using those best available drugs, the cancer unfortunately either continues to grow or you had a good response, but somehow it shows up again – the cancer shows up again – and so, then, we’re looking for additional opportunities, additional therapies. 

And so, some of the best opportunities are actually to consider these clinical trials. The way that clinical trials are designed is that they always are going  to provide you at least a backbone of a standard available therapy, so you’re never going to get less than what would be considered standard of care. 

But, what they’re doing is they’re usually partnering another drug – a more novel therapy – or they’re basically testing a more novel therapy that could be more targeted, that could potentially have better efficacy than what’s already available standardly. And so, the value of that is that you could have an opportunity to have a therapy that could work even better. 

When you’ve tried something already, unfortunately, the cancer has grown, there is still opportunity, and while you’re on a clinical trial, I think one of the huge benefits is it’s very regulated. You are monitored so closely because at the base of all of this is safety. There is never going to be a drug or therapy that’s going to be administered to a patient without ensuring that there’s absolute safety for that patient, and so, that’s a way that you really have opportunity to get more treatment that could really help your cancer condition and do it in a very, very safe, formal fashion. 

Katherine:

And ultimately help others as well, in the future. 

Dr. Ko:

Exactly, absolutely, because as you’re participating in this process – and, of course, it’s a voluntary process to participate on a clinical trial, so we so appreciate all the patients who, in the past, have participated and are willing to participate in the future, but allows us also to really gather a lot of information to really inform cancer treatment for all the patients coming down the road, and those could be anyone. They could be our neighbors, our friends, our own family members, and that could really be so helpful to everyone that’s going through this type of thing. 

Katherine:

Absolutely, yeah. I’d like to back up a bit and talk about what endometrial cancer is. It’s often referred to as uterine cancer. So, are they the same thing? Are these terms interchangeable? 

Dr. Ko:

Sure, it’s a great question. So, endometrial cancer refers to cancer that starts in what I call the lining of the uterine cavity. So, inside the uterus, there’s a uterine cavity, and there’s a tissue that coats that cavity, and that’s called the endometrium. So, endometrial cancer is basically when cancer cells start growing from that tissue. And, of course, since that exists in the uterus, of course, it’s considered uterine cancer, and we’re just being a little bit more specific when we say endometrial cancer. But, of course, endometrial cancer is the most common form of uterine cancer by far, so in some ways, it’s almost – it’s synonymous. 

When Should AML Patients Consider Joining a Clinical Trial?

When Should AML Patients Consider Joining a Clinical Trial? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

With AML research advancing quickly, clinical trials are an important consideration when making a treatment decision. AML expert and researcher Dr. Omer Jamy discusses when joining a clinical trial may be appropriate. 

Dr. Omer Jamy is a Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant Physician and Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Learn more about Dr. Omer Jamy.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Jamy, when should AML patients consider joining a clinical trial? 

Dr. Omer Jamy:

Yeah, that’s a very interesting question. No, I have my personal thoughts on that which I share. So, I feel like clinical trials are of different flavors. They range from early phase to late phase trials. I think being at a center where there’s opportunities to enroll in clinical trials is really helpful. Now if you have a newly diagnosed patient with AML, there is good standard of care treatment. Of course, they can be improved upon.  

I would probably improve upon them in the setting of a Phase III where they get standard of care plus an additional agent versus placebo where at minimum, they’re getting standard of care, right? So, it will be very challenging unless it’s a very novel concept to enroll someone who has not seen any standard therapy on an earlier phase study. Let’s put it this way. Whereas it changes completely when they’ve relapsed meaning they’ve gone through options which are pretty standard. At that point, enrolling in the clinical trial is most likely in their best interest. I think because once leukemia relapses, we have limited options.  

I think we’ve been lucky over the past five years that we’ve had several drugs approved. But there’s still probably less than 10. And out of those, not everybody is a candidate for each of those drugs. They’re targeting specific mutations. So, the relapse refractory setting I think enrolling in a clinical trial is really helpful. Up front I just take more interest in the clinical trial design and the consent form before agreeing to participate. 

AML Treatment Approaches | Factors That Impact Options

AML Treatment Approaches | Factors That Impact Options from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What factors are considered when choosing an AML treatment approach? Dr. Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld explains how shared decision-making comes into play when deciding on a therapy and reviews the options available to treat AML.

Dr. Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld is Director of the Clara D. Bloomfield Center for Leukemia Outcomes Research at The Ohio State University and a member of the Leukemia Research Program at the OSUCCC – James. Learn more about Dr. Eisfeld.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

With all the new tools that are available, what other factors do you consider when working with an AML patient to choose a treatment approach for them?  

Dr. Eisfeld:

The most important aspects are what we call – and this is – I’m glad that you bring this question up because I feel you have to think of – and that was what we’ve been talking about – called disease-associated factors. This is everything in the leukemic cell. They – how does a leukemia looks like? How does the blast look like? What changes are there?  

That’s the biggest part of what I would call patient-associated factors: the patient age, the patient performance status, actually the patient. In every – because I think, sometimes, we forget about it. But we just look at all the molecular testing.  

But even if – for example, there would be a patient with a very good risk leukemia, where I think, “Oh, this leukemia should respond very well to an intensive chemotherapy.” 

If the patient cannot tolerate chemotherapy or – and I see it more often than I would wish for patients who are young who have a great performance status, but they just cannot – they – their family reasons. Small children sometimes – they just cannot be away for so long. This all comes into consideration. So, it’s really important because we all work together as a team. And the right treatment for the leukemia might not be the right treatment for the patient.  

And for most cases, however, I think, it will only work if one stands with a whole heart with both physicians, and patients, and family. Because it’s a long journey behind the care that’s being given. And so, this is a joint decision-making, and there are different options that can be done. Of course, I would not advise something where I would think there are no chances of success.  

And so, this has to be an open discussion. But this is – it’s very often a very tough treatment to communicate that and see what are the goals of each patient? That will be most important for treatment and decision-making.     

Katherine Banwell:

What types of AML treatment classes are currently available?  

Dr. Eisfeld:

This is a very good question. The most classic treatment class is intensive chemotherapy. This is just because people might have heard the names. It is called 3 + 7 or 7 + 3, which refers to one weeklong impatient chemotherapy treatment. But you get one chemotherapy for seven days. And the first three days, you get a second treatment as well.  

That’s why it’s called three in seven in here, but it’s a total of seven days. So, we have intensive chemotherapy. And there are different flavors of it. But this is usually the backbone. The second class is what I would call a targeted inhibitor. And here we can look at two different aspects. We have targeted inhibitors for a specific DNA mutation that are found. And specifically, one are called IDH or FLT3 mutations.  

And these are pill forms that I usually by now combined with a third drop class which is called hypomethylating agents. And I will go through in a moment.  

But these are pills that really only work in patients and carry that genetic change. They have very, very low toxicity and very high chances of working. So, that’s why this testing is so important to see if one is one of the 15 percent of AML patients carrying an IDH mutation – 15 percent isn’t low. And a similar rate carries a FLT3 mutation.  

And then there is also going to target inhibitors. That is targeted because it is against what I would call a pathway. The gene that is commonly activated in acute leukemia – and this is called BCL-2 and the drug is called venetoclax (Venclexta).  

This is now stormed through the acute myeloid leukemia world in just a few years ago and has been approved as a front-line treatment option for several patients, especially for those who are older. And we know that even patients who respond usually favorably to chemotherapy, some of those also respond well to venetoclax the Bcl-2 inhibitor. The benefit is that this treatment in many cases if it works, can be done as an outpatient in here and has very often lower complications.  

It is actually has so good results that I – sometimes it seems too easy. So, we actually advise patients to still try to get – the first time they get the treatment, do it at a center where it’s done more commonly. Because it sometimes – don’t underestimated the power of a pill. And it’s still a very, very powerful drug. So, doing it in a controlled setting – because if cancer cells break down, they break down and can create all sorts of trouble.  

So, that is really something – for several leukemias, it can be concerning. And again, now the treatment group would be called hypomethylating agents. The names are azacitidine (Vidaza) and decitabine (Dacogen). And they act in a very different way. They try to change the epigenetics like methylation patterns. And often, if it is an untargeted way of the tumor cells and they can be used alone.  

Or very often by now in combination with the targeted inhibitors that I was just mentioning. These are infusions that can be done either over five, seven, or 10 days depending on the combination treatment. And for patients, as I mentioned before, that don’t respond well to many other options to those patients with a complex karyotype. This is, for example, a scenario where patients can just receive this as their only therapy.          

Katherine Banwell:

What about stem cell transplant? You didn’t mention that.   

Dr. Eisfeld:

Yes. That would be the next one. So, stem cell transplant always comes as an option, which I would call as a maintenance therapy. Again, two aspects. We have two different end goals.  

First is get rid of some leukemia. Second is to make sure it stays away. And as soon as the leukemia is in complete remission, depending on the performance status – the agent. Again, in multiple different things. It’s not an easy decision. 

At that time, there has to be a conversation. And that always involves a leukemia physician and a transplant physician very often. These are different providers that goes for the risks and benefits. Where the question is if I only continue to do chemotherapy – because it’s never only once. You would always have to repeat your chemotherapy. What is the likelihood that the leukemia comes back, and does it outweigh the risks that comes with the stem cell or bone marrow transplant that comes in here. But for many leukemias, especially for young patients and for patients with higher risks, this is the only chance of a cure. That is the most curative and only curative attempt for many leukemia attempts.  

Katherine Banwell:

Where do clinical trials fit into the treatment plan? 

Dr. Eisfeld:

That is the absolute backbone. We always have to think about that. 

Everything – all the treatment options that I mentioned – have been clinical trials, just very, very short time – very few years ago. So, every patient that comes to a leukemia or a cancer center, clinical trials will be discussed if they’re available. Because they will provide a special opportunity to have even more fine-tuned treatments – either newer agents. And I think what is very important to mention is that all clinical trials that are available would give the option of the best standard of care.  

And then the hope that a patient wouldn’t be getting any of the best standard of care options that are approved. The hope is that the new agent or added agent in many cases would even do better.  

It’s also important that there’s a lot of additional monitoring during the trial. I think it can be seen in two ways as two parts of a coin. In one way, it may be additional visits to the hospital or additional blood draws that are necessary to be sure that the medications are safe, and that researchers and conditions can learn about it. But on the other hand, it also gives you this extra bit of being looked after and really getting checked in and out, making sure that all organs are functioning that everything is just going fine. And many patients appreciate this a lot. And they have this pair of extra eyes on them all the time.  

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Eisfeld, what therapies are available for AML patients who relapse or don’t respond to initial therapy? And is this treatment approach different from those who are newly diagnosed?  

Dr. Eisfeld:

Most of the time, the treatments available at relapse are the same available at the first diagnosis. Just because we know now that, for example, if you have a molecular marker that, for example, is available, it would act with also relatively high chance of relapse upset. However, at relapse, the most important thing I personally would do is consider a clinical trial even stronger than in the first mindset. 

 Because it means that the leukemia outsmarted current treatments very often. So, usually what we would be doing is see if there is a targeted inhibitor or a cell mutation FLT3 or IDH, which I would personally always prefer to go in MLL rearrangement now for the new menin inhibitors where one would go with the same option as if it would have been their diagnosis. But if not to really consider clinical trials is a strong urge. 

Katherine Banwell:

Should patients or should relapsed patients undergo genetic testing again? Is it necessary?  

Dr. Eisfeld:

Yes. At any time. Yes. Because we know that the leukemia changes. And you just can think about it in the way is that the cells that are surviving treatment, they’ve become smart. There was so much poison. There was so much treatment put on them. 

And the ones that survive might have a quiet additional chromosome change as additional gene changes. And even if a genetic change has not been present at time of diagnosis, the reason the cell has survived might have been that it has now one of these changes that came up on a later time during treatment or while the cell is hiding somewhere to come back. 

Low-Risk Versus High-Risk AML

Low-Risk Versus High-Risk AML from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How is AML risk determined, and how does it affect treatment options? Dr. Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld defines low-risk and high-risk AML and explains how this classification may predict disease response to therapy.

Dr. Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld is Director of the Clara D. Bloomfield Center for Leukemia Outcomes Research at The Ohio State University and a member of the Leukemia Research Program at the OSUCCC – James. Learn more about Dr. Eisfeld.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Many cancer types are typically staged. But that’s not the case with AML. AML is often considered low risk or high risk. Is that right? 

Dr. Eisfeld:

Yes. And we – I think that’s very well how you put it. And we can even – they even add an intermediate risk by now to it. And I love this question because that’s what I like to study or what I’m studying here. The one important thing to keep in mind – and this is something even many hematologists don’t think about – 

– is that the risk assignment of acute leukemia, of AML if you think about it as low, or high, or intermediate risk is risk – or is actually better said not risk, but chances to respond to conventional chemotherapy. So, the way all this was defined is that if you have, for example, a multitude of chromosomal abnormalities – as you call it complex karyotypes – it would be considered adverse. This means your chances of responding to the standard of care in terms of chemotherapy are very, very low.  

And similarly, if you have other changes such as a NPM1 mutation, your chances are considered very high. And but – so, the risk assignment with the increase of treatments now changes. We still also – and when I look at that, I think about it in the same way. But in my mind, if I’m talking to a patient, I’m trying to make sure to say, this is considered an intermediate or adverse risk.  

But this means that I would not, at the first place, consider you for a standard chemotherapy but rather advise you to participate in a clinical trial or have an alternative care. The second implication especially for younger patients would be to – if you’re intermediate or adverse risk, that you would routinely be considered for bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant.      

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. So, what does it mean to be high risk then? 

Dr. Eisfeld:

It means that your likelihood of going into remission – the standard of care is very low.  

This means – I mean, in very practical numbers, it might be as low as 20 or 30 percent. This meaning getting the leukemia into remission, there are very important differences. The first step at every time in the same high risk means if the patient receives the treatment, how high are the chances that we can get rid of the leukemia? 

The second question is how high are the chances once it’s gone that it stays away? Or how high are the chances of relapse? In adverse risk most cases, it’s both – a combination of those. The chances of going into complete remission are lower and the chances of it coming back are higher. So, we have to be very aggressive. This means that we have to consider alternative treatment options. And even if we are then lucky and achieve remission, that we might have to move to more intensive additional treatments such as a bone marrow transplant.    

The Role of Immunotherapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer or Relapse

The Role of Immunotherapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer or Relapse from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Breast cancer treatment may involve immunotherapy or targeted therapy, but what do patients need to know? Expert Dr. Demetria Smith-Graziani discusses the roles of immunotherapy and targeted therapy and shares questions for patients to ask their doctor about immunotherapy.

Demetria Smith-Graziani, MD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Smith-Graziani.

[ACT]IVATION TIP

“…ask your oncologist about the standard of care or clinical trial options for the use of immunotherapy for your cancer, and if it would be beneficial to do any testing on your cancer to assess the benefit of immunotherapy.”

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Dr. Smith, what is the role of immunotherapy or targeted therapy in breast cancer, specifically those whose cancer has relapsed or is in advanced stages?

Dr. Demetria Smith-Graziani:

Currently, we are using immunotherapy mostly for triple-negative breast cancer, for early stage breast cancer, that is not stage IV breast cancer,  we use immunotherapy sometimes in combination with chemotherapy for higher risk, triple-negative breast cancers to help reduce the risk of it coming back in the future.

We also use immunotherapy for metastatic or stage IV triple-negative breast cancer, specifically those cancers that are positive for a protein called PD-L1, we are also doing a number of clinical trials across the country and the world to figure out other situations in which we can use immunotherapy, whether without chemotherapy to treat other types of breast cancer, and my activation tip for patients is ask your oncologist about the standard of care or clinical trial options for the use of immunotherapy for your cancer, and if it would be beneficial to do any testing on your cancer to assess the benefit of immunotherapy.


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Lung Cancer Clinical Trials 201 Resource Guide

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Lung Cancer Clinical Trials | Addressing Common Patient Concerns

Lung Cancer Clinical Trials | Addressing Common Patient Concerns from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Considering a lung cancer clinical trial can feel overwhelming and brings up a number of questions. Dr. Grace Dy reviews common concerns from patients, and explains how and when placebo may be used in trials.

Dr. Grace Dy is Chief of Thoracic Oncology and Professor of Oncology in the Department of Medicine at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. Learn more about Dr. Grace Dy.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

What are some common concerns you hear from patients when discussing lung cancer clinical trial options?  

Dr. Grace Dy:

When I discuss clinical trials, the first question generally patients ask is: well, how effective is the drug, right? And the second question will be: well, what are the side effects? And those are very valid questions, but we may not always have an answer to it, especially if they’re in early phase. I do a lot of early phase clinical trials, meaning sometimes we don’t even know the proper dose of the drug to use, for example.  

And the intent of the trial, for example, in Phase I, generally, is to find out what is a proper dose to use that is safe and effective before we can do a test in Phase II setting using the recommended dose to test it out more rigorously how well it works. And if it passes Phase II, then we go to Phase III, which then generally is comparing it with the standard to see whether it will be better or at least equivalent or non-inferior. 

And you may ask, “Well, why even do a non-inferior?” Because, well, some drugs, it may not prolong your life more than current therapies, but if it has better side effect profile, right? So, there are actually drugs that are approved through non-inferiority trials. But those are the common concerns, and I think another common concern that I hear when I talk about trials, patients are concerned about receiving placebo. 

Katherine Banwell:

And what do you tell patients? 

Dr. Grace Dy:

Well, it depends on the design of the trial and the question that is being answered. So, in fact, for example, some situations in the standard of care is not to do anything. The best way to remove bias is to administer a placebo because the standard care would be not to do anything. And those, generally, are Phase III, you know. An early phase, Phase I, Phase II generally there are no placebo involved. I mean, there are some randomized Phase II trials that there are placebo involved and I explain to the patient why placebo may be involved and it’s usually on top of a standard of care. So, there could be a standard of care therapy but you add something else. So, you want to compare it with a new drug plus the standard of care. So, you might add placebo so that the doctors will not be bias when they measured their scans, for example. They say oh, this patient is getting this experimental drug. So, they’re excited. They might oh, you know, make it look better than what it actually is.  

Katherine Banwell:

Now, as a researcher yourself, do you always know that a placebo is part of the clinical trial testing?  

Dr. Grace Dy:

Yes, it will be in the design. So, it will say there is a placebo control. So, the title, or the design, generally will tell you this is a randomized, double-blind placebo control. Usually if there is a blinded there might be some placebo involved because then you don’t know what people are getting.

What Should Prostate Cancer Patients Know About Clinical Trials?

What Should Prostate Cancer Patients Know About Clinical Trials? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Clinical trials may be intimidating to some prostate cancer patients, so what do they need to know to address their concerns? Dr. Sumit Subudhi explains clinical trials and discusses the benefits of participation.

Dr. Sumit Subudhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Subudhi.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Prostate cancer research really can only move forward through clinical trials and patient participation in those trials. Can you briefly explain what a trial is for people who may not be familiar with the term? 

Dr. Subudhi:

That’s a great question. My own father has prostate cancer. And he had the same exact question when he started his journey in that. 

And so, what I explained to him is that clinical trials are experiments. They’re experiments that are done in our patients.  

So, they’re drugs that are thought to mechanistically kill the cancer cell or at least change the environment around the cancer cell to help people live longer. But these drugs were actually tested in mouse models or in tissue models. And we don’t know if they actually work in patients. 

And so, in clinical trials, we’re actually testing whether these drugs are safe and whether they’re efficacious or beneficial to our patients. So, I want to be very clear. When patients go on clinical trials, we don’t know if it’s going to work on them. And that’s something that they should know that they’re showing a lot of courage and risk in joining these trials.  

But the other point I want to make is that every standard of care drug that is out there actually went through the clinical trial process, and they were approved because they showed benefit in a group of patients. 

Katherine:

Well, how can a prostate cancer patient benefit from participating in a trial? 

Dr. Subudhi:

One of the key benefits is that you get access to drugs that may actually prolong your life or even cure you and that you wouldn’t have access to in trials.  

And so, some of my patients, unfortunately, they’ve exhausted all the standard of care choices that are out there. And the trial’s the only option left versus leaving it up to natural causes of demise from prostate cancer. And so, clinical trials give other opportunities to potentially live longer and have a great quality of life. 

Katherine:

So, they could offer some hope. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Definitely. As far as I’m concerned, yes. And, actually, with my patients, I try to not wait while they’ve exhausted all the treatments to start them on clinical trials, because I feel like we may be able to save some of these treatments in our back pocket for when they’re too exhausted to be coming to our clinic so often. And so, I like to actually try to get them enrolled in clinical trials early on in their journey with prostate cancer. 

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How Are Patients on Myeloma Maintenance Therapy Monitored?

How Are Patients on Myeloma Maintenance Therapy Monitored? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloma specialist Dr. Omar Nadeem explains how a follow-up care and monitoring plan for patients on maintenance therapy is determined.

Dr. Omar Nadeem is the Clinical Director of the Myeloma Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program and Associate Director of the Multiple Myeloma Clinical Research Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Nadeem.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Nadeem, many patients are on maintenance therapy following active treatment. So, how is a patient on maintenance therapy monitored? 

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes, so, majority of the time just with blood work. We don’t necessarily need to do a lot of bone marrow biopsies and PET scans for a majority of patients that are on maintenance therapy unless we’re either worried about their blood markers or some symptoms. Generally speaking, any time – it depends on what maintenance therapy they’re on, of course. If they’re just on lenalidomide (Revlimid), which is the most commonly used maintenance therapy, a lot of times we check in with them every one to three months. 

Depending on how their disease status is and how they’ve been doing and whether there’s any side effects that we need to worry about. So, they still have to see their doctors, still have to get the blood work. Usually you can get away with having it done no more than once a month or so, unless they are on other medications along with Revlimid, where we then have to check in with them a little bit more frequently. 

And some of that changes, so patients can be on maintenance therapy for five plus years, and we get a very good sense of how they are doing and kind of how their disease is doing, and we can kind of be a moving target in terms of the frequency of the follow-ups. 

How Is Research Advancing Myeloma Treatment and Care?

How Is Research Advancing Myeloma Treatment and Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

A panel of myeloma experts, including Drs. Omar Nadeem, Irene Ghobrial, and Betsy O’Donnell, discuss how clinical trials advance myeloma research and share an update on promising therapies in development.

Dr. Omar Nadeem is the Clinical Director of the Myeloma Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program and Associate Director of the Multiple Myeloma Clinical Research Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Nadeem.

Dr. Irene Ghobrial is Director of the Clinical Investigator Research Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Ghobrial.

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute specializing in Plasma Cell Disorders. 

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Where do clinical trials fit into a patient’s treatment plan? 

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes. So, clinical trials as a term, a lot of times patients have a lot of questions about what that means. There’s a lot of misconceptions, I would say.  

Sometimes patients think they will get either a placebo and they won’t get the adequate treatment, or that they may not get the right treatment, right, because they’re taking a chance going on a clinical trial. It’s actually the opposite. So, all the trials are really designed to improve upon what we already know works in a particular disease, right? So, when we think about trials let’s say in relapsed myeloma, where the patient has already had some of the approved therapies, we’re looking at the most promising new therapies that have shown efficacy either in the lab or first in human studies and then moving them through the different phases and studying them in more and more patients.  

And that’s how all these drugs get started, right? So, they all get started at that point and then make their way to earlier lines of therapy.  

Then you’re trying to answer different questions as part of clinical trials. So, which one of these therapies can I combine, for example. Which ones can I omit, which ones – so, they’re all sort of getting the standard therapy and getting something either added on top of it or removed, depending on what the question that we’re asking. 

And then in the world that we currently live in with precursor plasma cell disorders, as Dr. Ghobrial mentioned, we have lots of patients that are at high risk of developing multiple myeloma in their lifetime, and that could be in a few years to a decade. And a lot of these therapies are so effective, and we’re now trying to really study some of these rationally in that patient population, so that’s a very different clinical trial, for example, than what I described earlier.  

So, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and where you are in the phase of your disease. 

Katherine Banwell:

This next question is open to all of you. Are there therapies in development that are showing promise for patients with myeloma? Dr. O’Donnell, let’s start with you.  

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell:

Yes. So, I think we are so fortunate in multiple myeloma to have so much interest in our disease and so many great drugs developed. So, as Dr. Nadeem was discussing, CAR-T cells are an immunotherapy, the ones that are approved now, we actually are fortunate to have two CAR-T cells approved, target something very specific called B-cell maturation antigen.  

We’re now seeing the next generation where we’re looking at other targets on the same cancer cell, that plasma cell, so those are evolving. 

Same thing is true in the bispecific antibody space. Again, those target BCMA now, but we have newer bispecifics who look at alternate targets, and really what this does is it gives us different ways of approaching the cancer cell, particularly as you relapse through disease.  

Dr. Irene Ghobrial:

I would probably say we’re also getting into targeted therapies and more of personalized, so if you have an 11;14 translocation, venetoclax (Venclexta) would be an amazing drug for that. And the more we can say my own personal myeloma, what’s the best treatment for me, that’s how we’re trying to do it. So, it may not be exactly precision medicine, but we’re getting closer and closer to precision medicine of my myeloma, my specific drugs. And even if people have a 17p deletion, then we would say let’s think of that immunotherapy.  

It is truly a renaissance for us, and we’re starting to get into trispecifics, into off-the-shelf CAR-T, into so many new things. Into two different antigens that are expressed for the CAR-Ts. I mean, we are really beginning the era of immunotherapy, and we’re excited to see how much we can go into that because it will completely change myeloma, and hopefully we will cure many patients. We think we have already amazing drugs. It’s a matter of when to use them and who is the right person for this right drug. 

Katherine:

What are you hopeful about the future of care for myeloma patients? Dr. Ghobrial, do you want to start? 

Dr. Irene Ghobrial:

I’m hopeful that we truly cure myeloma, and no one should ever develop end organ damage. 

We should identify it early and treat it early, and no one should ever come in being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Dr. Nadeem? 

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes, I think I definitely agree with what Irene said, and really having a more thoughtful approach to each individual myeloma patient. As I mentioned earlier, we have so many available therapies. I want to be able to know exactly which patients need which path in terms of treatment, and which ones we can maybe de-escalate therapy, right? So, thinking about which patients do well and maybe can get away with not being on continuous therapy, and those that absolutely need it. Identifying them better to give them the best therapy. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. O’Donnell, do you have anything to add? 

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell:

I think we all share a common goal, which is cure, and for those who we can’t cure yet, I think really working on making the experience as good as it possibly can be and focusing on the factors that we can control and optimizing those, both for patients and their caregivers who are in this journey together with the patient.  

What Are Currently Available Myeloma Treatments?

What Are Currently Available Myeloma Treatments? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Omar Nadeem reviews myeloma treatment classes, including immunomodulatory therapies, proteasome inhibitors, and monoclonal antibodies. Dr. Nadeem also discusses how combining these therapies has boosted the effectiveness of myeloma treatment.

Dr. Omar Nadeem is the Clinical Director of the Myeloma Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program and Associate Director of the Multiple Myeloma Clinical Research Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Nadeem.

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How Is Research Advancing Myeloma Treatment and Care?


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Nadeem, what types of myeloma treatment classes are currently available?  

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes. So, we started over three decades ago plus with just having basically steroid medications and some older chemotherapy drugs that weren’t very targeted at all, and that was basically all we had up until about a little over 20 years ago, where immunomodulatory drugs were first discovered to be effective in multiple myeloma, and that included thalidomide (Contergan or Thalomid) and now a commonly used agent called lenalidomide, or Revlimid.  

After that, we had a next class of medications approved called proteasome inhibitors that work differently than the immunomodulatory drugs, and then we combined all of these therapies about a decade plus ago and showed that that was better than anything else that we were doing before that. So, combining the steroids with the immunomodulatory drugs and proteasome inhibitors became the standard of care. 

And then we had the next class of drugs approved in 2015 called monoclonal antibodies, and that’s the first time we have monoclonal antibodies approved for myeloma, and it first started in patients that had relapsed myeloma, and then they made it all the way up to front line therapy with a drug in particular called daratumumab (Darzalex).  

And now what we’re going is entering an era of combining all four of these therapies, just like we did 10 years ago with three drugs, and showing that combining four drugs is actually better than three. And the important thing there is that it’s not necessarily adding cumulative toxicity. These are targeted therapies; they all work differently, but they all work really well together. So, now combining these agents has allowed us to really treat the disease effectively and allow for patients to tolerate the therapies.  

And then over the last couple of years, we’ve now entered kind of the next renaissance in myeloma where you have immunotherapies, and these are sort of true immunotherapies, in some cases taking the patient’s own T cells and then genetically modifying them to recognize myeloma cells and putting them back into patients. This is called CAR T-cell therapy, and that’s now approved for patients with multiple myeloma.  

And that again, just like the previous drug, sits in patients that have – you know, at a space where patients have had multiple relapses. But we’re now studying that earlier and earlier, and that along with another class of drugs called bispecific antibodies that also use your T cells via a different mechanism. A lot of exciting things going on, and we keep adding to the available agents for this disease.  

Understanding Personalized Medicine for Myeloma

Understanding Personalized Medicine for Myeloma from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloma experts Dr. Omar Nadeem and Dr. Betsy O’Donnell discuss the personalized approach to treating myeloma and the factors that are considered when making care decisions.

Dr. Omar Nadeem is the Clinical Director of the Myeloma Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program and Associate Director of the Multiple Myeloma Clinical Research Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Nadeem.

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute specializing in Plasma Cell Disorders.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Nadeem, as we begin our treatment discussion, would you define personalized medicine as it relates to myeloma care? 

Dr. Omar Nadeem:

Yes. I think we’re getting better and better at really having a personalized treatment plan for each individual patient with multiple myeloma. I think Dr. O’Donnell defined before, we are identifying some of the markers where we have targeted therapy for, and we hope with time we’ll discover more and more targets that can truly lead to personalized medicine for individual patients. 

Right now, though, we have a lot of approved therapies for multiple myeloma, and that list is getting longer and longer basically every month, it seems, nowadays. So, when we have so many tools in our toolkit, we then have to figure out, well, which strategy works for which patient? And the fact that we have effective therapies, we’re able to tailor how much of one particular therapy a patient may benefit from. So, some of the decisions that come into play is which medication should I combine for this patient which will lead to obviously disease eradication? 

And then also, how much do I need to intensify that treatment? Do we need to think about doing a stem cell transplant or not? Yes or no?  

There are lot of pros and cons, right? So, it’s a very personalized decision that we have, looking at the disease factors, but also a lot of personal factors because transplant interrupts life, and then we have to make sure that that fits with that particular patient’s lifestyle.  

And then we talk about maintenance therapy. You know, that’s the therapy that is designed to kind of keep the disease away usually for many, many years for the majority of patients.   

But what does that look like, right? Does that include just pills? Is it going to be shots plus pills? Is it going to be a combination, etcetera? So, we have all the discussions at each phase of myeloma, and we discuss with them about what the pros and cons are and how that may fit into their particular lifestyle. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. O’Donnell, what factors do you consider when choosing a treatment approach? 

Dr. Betsy O’Donnell:

So, I think you’ve heard from all of us that we really try to have an individualized approach. When we’re talking about multiple myeloma, one of the main factors that I think about is really kind of the overall wellness of the patient. Historically, we had different categories of transplant eligible, transplant ineligible. 

And so that can influence some of the decisions. Really it comes down to what is it the person’s performance does? How well are they doing in their day-to-day life? And that really can dictate the intensity of the therapy. We know that age is just a number, it really is, so there are factors beyond that. What other medical problems do people have? What are the specifics of how well their kidneys are working? 

And so the biggest thing that we can work with is the dose. In fact, we’ve had work that shows that using lower doses from the get-go in older patients allows almost identical outcomes, but really gives patients a tailored dose to where they are at that juncture in their life.  

And so remember, myeloma is much more like a marathon, and so you have to set out at a pace that can be sustained. We treat people continuously. There’s an induction phase where we use a multiple drug combination, but beyond that, as Dr. Nadeem just said, they go on to maintenance, and that maintenance is indefinite. And so you have to set out at a pace or at a dose that you can sustain. 

Different medications have different toxicity profiles, so if someone had, let’s say, cardiac or heart issues, we might steer away from some medications that may exacerbate those. So, every decision is individualized. It’s based on who the patient is, where they are in their life, what other medical problems they have, and what we think they will do best with over time, not just in a short timeframe. 

Key Questions for Prostate Cancer Patients to Ask Before Joining a Clinical Trial

Key Questions for Prostate Cancer Patients to Ask Before Joining a Clinical Trial from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Andrew Armstrong, director of prostate cancer research at the Duke Cancer Institute, provides expert advice on what questions prostate cancer patients should ask when considering participation in a clinical trial. 

Dr. Andrew J. Armstrong is a medical oncologist and director of clinical research at the Duke Cancer Institute’s Center for Prostate and Urologic Cancers. For more information on Dr. Armstrong here.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

What are some key questions that patients should ask their healthcare team before even participating in a clinical trial?  

Dr. Armstrong:

I think number one is what are the alternatives that I would have if I did not participate in the clinical trial? What are the standard of care therapies? And prostate cancer now has a vast menu. There is two different types of chemotherapy. There are two different types of target radiotherapy, that’s Pluvicto and radium. There’s immunotherapy, with Sipuleucel-T and other immune therapies. There are multiple hormonal drugs. There are precision medicines, like I mentioned, for men with certain hereditary types of prostate cancer. So, it’s important to hear what the standard of care is, and many patients don’t necessarily even hear that. 

And then based on what patients have already seen and what’s the expectation? Risks and benefits around those. 

And then on top of that, research can complement that or either replace or come after those standard of care approaches. Certainly if a patient has exhausted the standard of care approaches, a trial can offer real benefits. 

It’s important to ask about risks. What have other patients experienced going into that study? What kind of toxicities, good or bad? What other – what’s the evidence that it has helped people before? If it’s never been studied in people, the evidence might just come from the laboratory. But hearing about why is this so promising, why have you chosen to invest so much time and energy in this trial, is a good question. 

And then if you’re hearing about a trial and you’re making a decision to travel, sometimes asking questions about whether the trial will cover your lodging or transportation, gas money, airport travel. Some trials do do that. 

You can also look on clinicaltrial.gov for sites that are near you. So, many centers open the same trial in a different state, so you can look on that website to see if there’s a trial near you for what you’re looking for.