Two new studies led by Renuka Iyer, MD, Section Chief for Gastrointestinal Oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and published in Oncotarget and Cancer, respectively, highlight possible new treatment options for patients with neuroendocrine tumors.
Renuka Iyer, MD
The first report, published in Oncotarget, focuses on an immunotherapy that was previously shown to help patients with brain tumors live longer. The novel vaccine SurVaxM, when combined with standard therapy, resulted in significantly longer survival rates in patients with brain tumors compared with those who received standard therapy alone.
When conducting previous research, research teams from Roswell Park examined stained neuroendocrine tumor specimens for the molecule the vaccine targets—survivin, a protein often found at high levels in cancerous tumors, where it promotes cancer cell survival through proliferation and metastasis. They found an unusually high level in the specimens, and brought this data to Dr. Iyer for further research.
Dr. Iyer and colleagues pursued further studies exploring whether the protein might serve as a prognostic and potentially therapeutic marker in patients with neuroendocrine tumors. The team discovered survivin in 52% of the neuroendocrine samples they studied.
“We saw that the SurVaxM vaccine has the potential to help half our patients with neuroendocrine tumors, especially patients with more aggressive tumors and those whose tumors originated in their lungs, for whom options are urgently needed,” said Dr. Iyer says.
Dr. Iyer secured funding from the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation in 2019 for a clinical trial of SurVaxM in patients with neuroendocrine tumors; that study is open and enrolling new patients.
In pursuit of another novel treatment for this rare cancer, Dr. Iyer also led a team of researchers from Roswell Park, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to study nintedanib, an oral antiangiogenic agent that targets key tumor cell-signaling pathways. Nintedanib inhibits the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR), which is highly expressed in those tumors. For that reason, the team hypothesized, it could be active in patients with neuroendocrine tumors. Findings on the efficacy of this treatment were published in the journal Cancer.
“We found that nintedanib is effective as a treatment option for patients [with neuroendocrine tumors] and can slow the cancer growth for almost a year. Nintedanib was well tolerated and delayed deterioration in quality of life,” explained Dr. Iyer.
The most significant finding of this study was that nintedanib can slow cancer growth even when the patients have had many prior therapies. These results will help inform future trials targeting novel pathways, such as serotonin signaling, especially for patients with nonpancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, for whom options are very limited.
“Both of these published reports are exciting findings as they pave the way for promising new treatment options for patients with neuroendocrine tumors,” concluded Dr. Iyer.