Late-Breaking Immunotherapy Abstract Session Attracts 6,000 Attendees at ASCO


May 30, 2015

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS —The 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting started its second day of programming today with a special session featuring late-breaking abstracts from the field of cancer immunotherapy. Titled “Immunotherapy for Every Patient: Check Your Enthusiasm,” the session focused on research demonstrating favorable overall survival rates and/or objective response rates in the treatment of colon, liver and lung cancer. The 8 a.m. session attracted more than 6,000 meeting attendees.

“The information presented at this special session is significant. Immunotherapy is now in the main stream of treating lung cancer, and with the science involved, it’s now working for hepatocellular carcinoma and for mismatch repair gene patients. That’s extraordinary,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, ensign professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine at Yale University and a member of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer. “The session was also an interesting mix of two early studies and one late study. The results really show how much biology and immunology have helped care for patients with cancer.”

The first presentation of the session outlined data from a Phase II study that evaluated clinical activity of anti-PD-1 (pembrolizumab) in previously treated patients with advanced colorectal cancer and other solid tumors based on DNA mismatch repair (MMR) deficiency. In the colorectal cancer group with MMR-deficient tumors, an objective response rate of 62 percent was observed, indicating MMR status predicts clinical benefit of immune checkpoint blockade with pembrolizumab. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States.

Results from a Phase I/II dose-ranging trial evaluating the safety and anti-tumor activity of nivolumab in previously treated patients with hepatocellular carcinoma or advanced liver cancer were also announced at the session. Findings demonstrated that the estimated survival rate in evaluable patients was 62 percent at 12 months. Results also showed the safety profile of nivolumab is generally consistent with that previously reported for nivolumab in other tumor types. Hepatocellular carcinoma is an aggressive and fatal cancer. More than 700,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with the disease each year with a majority of all cases caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus.

The session’s last presentation announced results from a Phase III study that evaluated nivolumab versus docetaxel in previously treated patients with advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer. The study demonstrated superior overall survival in patients receiving nivolumab compared to the control arm. The study met its primary endpoint of overall survival and secondary endpoints of objective response rate and progression free survival. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths globally. Non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of the disease and accounts for approximately 85 percent of cases.

Regarding the nivolumab lung cancer abstract, Dr. Herbst noted, “If you think about lung cancer, that’s 1.6 million cases a year with the majority of those being non-squamous lung cancer. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people that are now potentially candidates for immunotherapy.”

About SITC
Founded in 1984, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) is a non-profit medical society dedicated to improving cancer patient outcomes by advancing the development, science and application of cancer immunotherapy through the core values of interaction, innovation and leadership. For more information on SITC, visit the Society website at