Showing posts with label metastasis-directed therapy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label metastasis-directed therapy. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

SABR to oligometastases slows progression via immune response

Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiation (SABR, or sometimes, SBRT) significantly slowed metastatic progression in men with 3 or fewer metastases (oligometastatic). SABR is a form of concentrated radiation accomplished in 1-5 treatments.

The ORIOLE trial has been previously described in detail here. To recap, it was a small (Phase 2) randomized trial with 36 men treated with SABR to bone scan/CT-detected oligometastases. There were 18 men in the untreated control group. The men were followed for 6 months to see if there was any progression of their cancer. Progression was defined as either PSA progression or new metastases detected on bone scan/CT or physical symptoms of decline (e.g., pain). Of course, with only 6 months of follow-up, most of the detected progression was PSA progression. Phuoc Tran, the lead investigator of the ORIOLE trial, reported the 6-month results here:
  • Progression-free survival (PFS) was 81% in the SABR group vs 39% in the control group.
  • Median PFS was not yet reached in the SABR group vs 5.8 months in the control group.
  • The time to progression was increased by 70% by the treatment.
  • Progression has not been reached among those treated patients followed for over a year.
Although patients were only treated for metastases discovered on a bone scan/CT, they were also given a PSMA-based PET scan (DCFPyL). Those in whom no additional metastases were discovered by the PET scan fared better:
  • PFS was 84% in the fully treated group vs 36% in those with undiscovered metastases.
  • Median PFS was not reached in the fully-treated group vs 11.8 months in those with undiscovered metastases.
  • Distant metastasis-free survival (i.e., metastases distant from the ones that were treated) was 29 months in the fully-treated group vs 6 months in those with undiscovered metastases.
PFS in men in whom there were any untreated metastases was not improved compared to untreated men. This seems to be an all-or-nothing sort of thing.

SBRT has been found in lab studies to elicit a strong immune response. It releases cancer antigens into the bloodstream that are detected by T-cells, which become activated to find more cancer. That T cell response to radiation is thought to contribute to its effectiveness (called "the abscopal effect"). The investigators tracked the T cell response and found a significant response in the SABR-treated men.

Progression-free survival when most of the progression is PSA progression is not the endpoint we need to evaluate this therapy. SABR "treats" PSA. "Treating PSA" would occur if the radiation only provides excellent local control, while not necessarily delaying progression elsewhere. PSA is secreted in proportion to the size of the tumors, so treating only the tumors will do nothing to stop the micrometastases that are elsewhere. However, the strong T-cell response found by this study suggests that there may be a true delay in progression and not only a delay in PSA. Also, the fact that distant metastases were delayed by almost 2 years among those who had all of their PSMA-detected metastases irradiated, suggests a true response.

This is an important first step toward discovering whether oligometastasis-directed therapy provides a benefit, and how it works. It does not yet provide the answer to whether there is a survival benefit to such therapy. It also does not answer the question of whether ADT can be delayed when radiation has been given. There are several, larger clinical trials that will answer those questions more definitively. Meanwhile, the patient with rising PSA after prostate therapy should consider:
  1. A PSMA-based PET scan (available in some clinical trials, and probably widely available within a year).
  2. Talking to a radiation oncologist about SABR treatment of metastases if all discovered metastases are in places where it is entirely safe to treat them
  3. Not forgoing ADT adjuvant to SABR treatment until there is more proof.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Metastasis-Directed Therapy for Oligometastatic Recurrence - the STOMP trial

Metastasis-directed therapy (MDT) for recurrent oligometastatic prostate cancer is a very controversial topic. Researchers who should know better have made unjustified claims (see this link) and have even posted YouTube videos replete with "gee whiz" cases.

Now we have the first randomized clinical trial on the subject. It's a small Phase 2 trial (62 patients randomized to MDT or Surveillance) called STOMP and it only ran for three years (not long enough to detect survival differences in early metastatic patients). The objective of the study was not to see if MDT extended survival (which is what we really want to know), but to determine whether it extended the period before salvage ADT was required. The authors believe that if that more modest claim is realized, then a larger, longer Phase 3 randomized trial to detect any survival improvement would be justified.

"Oligometastatic" was defined as 1 to 3 detected metastases. Metastases were detected using a Choline PET/CT scan. Metastases could be in the pelvic lymph nodes (stage N1) or in distant locations (stage M1). Due to the small sample size in this study, there was a serious disparity in the number of metastases: the MDT group had fewer detected metastases (58% had only one) than the Surveillance group (29% had only one). From the start, the median number of detected metastases was 2 in the Surveillance group vs. only 1 in the MDT -- the Surveillance group started with a significant disadvantage.

"Recurrent" means after primary prostatectomy or radiation therapy has failed, and in some cases, salvage therapies have failed as well. Primary therapy may have included extended pelvic lymph node dissection (ePLND) with prostatectomy or whole-pelvic radiation along with prostate radiation. In this study, most (76%) had prostatectomy and many of them (85%) had failed salvage radiation.

"Metastasis directed therapy" included spot radiation (SBRT) to detected metastases, or surgical removal of lymph nodes or soft-tissue metastases. In this study, 55% of patients had lymph node metastases. If the patient had already had whole pelvic radiation or ePLND and any cancerous pelvic lymph nodes were detected, only those lymph nodes were removed. Otherwise a salvage ePLND was performed. Some patients were treated with SBRT to individual lymph node metastases, but none were treated with radiation to the whole pelvic lymph node field. Bone metastases were treated with SBRT (in 45% of patients), and one lung met was surgically removed. If metastases were detected on follow up in the MDT group, they were treated if there were 3 or fewer (i.e., whack-a-mole).

"ADT-free survival" is the time from randomization to the time ADT was required for any of three reasons: symptomatic progression, progression to more than 3 metastases (called "polymetastatic progression"), or local progression of baseline-detected metastases. PSA progression was not an adequate reason to start ADT. It is well known that MDT will result in a temporary reduction of PSA that is not sustainable. The goal of any therapy is to treat the disease, not to treat the PSA.

After a median follow up of 3 years, Ost et al. reported that:
  • Median ADT-free survival was 8 months longer in the MDT group
    • 21 months  in the MDT group vs. 13 months in the Surveillance group
    • The difference was not statistically significant with 95% confidence, but was within the pre-specified 80% confidence range*
  • 39% had not started ADT in the MDT group vs. 19% in the Surveillance group
  • 61% started ADT for polymetastatic progression (half of them within one year of treatment) in the MDT group vs 55% in the Surveillance group
  • Location of metastases did not affect ADT-free survival
  • 58% had only 1 metastasis (median=1) at baseline in the MDT group vs 28% in the Surveillance group (median=2).
  • There was no significant difference in ADT-free survival (even at 80% confidence) among those who had a PSA doubling time (PSADT) at baseline of >3 months (only 10 men in each group had a PSADT ≤ 3months)
  • Treatment toxicity was mild
* The authors pre-specified an 80% confidence interval for this pilot study. This is unusual. Ostensibly, this was because they knew they would be implementing an expanded Phase 3 study and only wanted to check for gross differences in this Phase 2 pilot study.  In a more conventional statistical analysis, the hypothesis that MDT affected ADT-free survival would have been rejected. Also, at 80% confidence, they should have accepted the hypothesis that the higher number of metastases in the Surveillance group made a difference - but the authors seem to ignore the inconsistency. Because of this, patients and clinicians are cautioned to not make changes in treatment decisions based on this.

Because "polymetastatic progression" was the endpoint used to determine whether ADT was indicated for treatment, and 39% of the Surveillance group were already starting with 3 metastases at baseline, it is surprising that it took 13 months for a single new metastasis to become detectable in that group, and that for 19% of the Surveillance group, a fourth metastasis never became detectable throughout the 3 years of follow up. In the MDT group, four new metastases had to become detectable after the first ones were eradicated by treatment. 31% (11 of 31) had a second round of treatments, and 6% had a third round of treatments before the sudden appearance of four or more detectable metastases all at once. By setting "ADT-free survival" as the endpoint and making it conditional upon the simultaneous detection of four metastases, they guaranteed that the endpoint would be reached earlier in the Surveillance group. What is surprising is that even with that built-in bias, the difference was not significant with 95% confidence. It is also worth noting that in a pre-planned subgroup analysis, there was no significant difference in ADT-free survival (even at 80% confidence) among those who had a PSA doubling time at baseline of >3 months. Patients with "indolent" metastases did not benefit from MDT. This study does not show that metastatic progression was slowed by MDT. Only an improvement in overall survival time can show that.

This study used a Choline PET (F18, I presume) scan to detect metastases. We recently saw that there is a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins to detect and treat oligometastases using the more accurate PSMA PET scan. While outcomes may be improved with a more accurate scan, it will undoubtedly eliminate many patients from the oligometastatic pool of patients.

This study did not investigate whether salvage radiation to the entire pelvic lymph node field would have had better outcomes than spot SBRT treatment. We are still not very good at finding cancerous lymph nodes (see this link) and the treatment field is inadequate most of the time (see this link).

Importantly, this study does not address whether it is beneficial or detrimental to delay start of ADT. The 8-month delay in the start of ADT may result in 8 months that the cancer is systemically multiplying and evolving. The TOAD trial suggested that early amelioration of the micrometastatic burden in recurrent patients may have a greater influence on survival than any selective evolutionary pressure that starting earlier may exert. It furthermore showed that overall quality of life was unaffected by the earlier ADT start. ADT is the standard of care when metastases have been discovered. Clinical trials of oligometastatic MDT should include ADT use in both arms to give a realistic appraisal and to be ethical.

While this trial was done among recurrent patients, the STAMPEDE trials (see this link and this link), the CHAARTED trial, and the LATITUDE trial among newly-diagnosed patients proved that aggressive systemic therapy, as early as possible after metastases are discovered, provides a significant survival advantage.

It is important that patients understand the very real risk of avoiding systemic treatment when there are known metastases. While it risks little to treat those oligometastases that can be safely treated, we must understand that there is no known survival benefit to doing so. There is a known risk to delaying systemic therapy. Dr. Ost wrote to me, "MDT does not replace ADT and our results should not be interpreted in that way."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

First US randomized clinical trial of oligometastasis-directed SBRT

In a recent commentary (see this link), we saw that some clinicians are making unsubstantiated claims of cancer control from treatment of oligometastases (less than 5 detected metastases). Only a randomized clinical trial (RCT) can prove that there is any benefit to such treatment. Johns Hopkins has announced the first such RCT in the US.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is the treatment of choice because it is precise, as well as convenient for the patient (usually completed in 1-5 treatments). It is important to distinguish between two different situations that may involve oligometastases:
  1. Metastasis-directed SBRT after primary treatment (prostatectomy or prostate radiation) and any local salvage radiation has failed. This is sometimes called "metachronous" treatment of recurrent prostate cancer.
  2. Radiation to the prostate and oligometastases in newly-diagnosed men, or men who are radiation- or surgery-naive but have progressed to castration-resistance.
  3. Radiation to metastases for the purposes of pain palliation, or to prevent fractures or spinal compression.
In addition, the situation may be different depending on whether the oligometastases are in the visceral organs, bones, extra-pelvic lymph nodes, pelvic lymph nodes, or some combination of these.

Phuoc Tran is the lead investigator of the "ORIOLE" RCT (NCT0268058) at Johns Hopkins described at this link. It is a small, Phase 2 trial for men in situation A described above. It has some noteworthy characteristics:
  • 36 men will receive SBRT, 18 men will receive standard-of-care treatment
  • Oligometastases are diagnosed by bone scan and CT
  • Patients will be balanced based on whether initial treatment was surgery or radiation, whether they've had hormone therapy, and whether the PSA doubling time was less than 6 months.
  • The primary outcome will be radiographic or PSA progression (by >25% over nadir and by > 2 ng/ml) after 6 months.
  • To be deemed successful, the treatment will have to reduce this measure of progression by 50%
There are several interesting secondary objectives of this RCT:
  • identification of additional metastases using the DCFPyL PET/CT
  • toxicity of treatment reported by doctors
  • pain palliation reported by patients
  • local control of metastases (see below)
  • Number of circulating tumor cells (CTC)
  • Genomic analysis of CTCs
  • Immune (T cell) response to treatment
  • Time until patients have to start life-long hormone therapy
We will see if the radiation activates a systemic T-cell response that may destroy cancer cells beyond the treated tumors (the abscopal effect).

It may seem odd that detection of fewer than 5 metastases by the DCFPyL PET/CT (developed at Johns Hopkins and now in expanded trials) is not a qualifying criterion. Perhaps they will change that for the Phase 3 trial. Or perhaps they want to prove the concept with a bone scan/CT because it will be several years before that PET scan (so far, the most accurate) is widely available and covered by insurance or Medicare. If it works for bone scan/CT-detected oligometastases, it will certainly work for DCFPyL PET-detected metastases.

Update (August 2017): Dr. Tran has made the following change in protocol:
We did change the criteria recently to allow men who had detectable disease on DCFPyL to enroll on the trial, BUT only if the DCFPyL did not show anything more than what is visible on conventional CT-AP and bone scan.  Our thought was that this would allow some patients of the "future" if you will (as PSMA-targeted imaging will be the SOC in 3-5 years) to be included on the trial, but because we do not allow men on the trial with DCFPyL scans that show us more than what is on conventional , we feel that still holds to original concept. 

It is also important to note what is not an objective of this early clinical trial. The outcome we most want to know is whether SBRT treatment of metastases extends overall survival. This 6-month trial will not tell us that. There is no doubt that local control will be excellent, but stopping the progression of 1-3 metastases does not necessarily mean that the cancer has been slowed down systemically at all. Certainly, PSA will fall as an immediate result of treatment. For those who are used to monitoring PSA as a measure of their cancer's systemic progression, this can be confusing. It's worth taking a moment to recall what serum PSA comes from in detectably metastatic disease. PSA is a protein on the surface of prostate cancer cells (and healthy prostate cells too.) It doesn't leak out into the blood from prostate cancer unless a tumor forms with its own blood supply. Tumor blood supply tends to be leaky, and so PSA is detected in the blood serum. Larger tumors with more blood supply put out more PSA. So irradiating those tumors and shrinking them is likely to eliminate the PSA they put out. But what about the micrometastases that do not yet have appreciable blood vessels? If there are thousands of them, will it matter that serum PSA was reduced for 6 months? No one knows the answer to that question and this Phase 2 study will not provide the answer. I hope they will provide radiographic progression-free survival separate from PSA progression-free survival.

For the answers to our most important questions we will have to look forward to the outcomes of some of the other RCTs that have longer follow-up than 6 months.

  • The CORE RCT (active, no longer recruiting) at Royal Marsden Hospital in London will have 5 years of follow-up (completion in 2024), and will include freedom from widespread metastatic disease and overall survival among the outcomes looked at. 
  • The STOMP RCT at University Hospital in Ghent had 2 years of follow-up looked at time to lifelong hormone therapy as its primary outcome (reviewed here). 
  • The PCX IX RCT (among castration-resistant patients) at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal will have 5 years of follow-up (primary outcome in 2025) and has radiographic progression-free survival as its primary outcome. 
  • The French RCT (recruiting, study completion in 2022) will look at radiographic progression-free survival with follow-up up to 3 years. 
  • The FORCE RCT at the University of Michigan (primary completion in 2022) will compare systemic treatment with ADT and any of Taxotere, Zytiga or Xtandi (at the discretion of the treating physician) to similar systemic treatment plus metastasis-directed SBRT for men with mCRPC who have not yet had any of those advanced systemic therapies. They will evaluate progression-free survival after 18 months. "Progression" is defined as alive and at least a 20% increase (and at least 5 mm net increase) in the size of tumors or any new metastases. They will detect metastases via bone scan/CT, However, they will also test whether PSMA-based PET indicators are as useful in among men with mCRPC as it is in men with newly  recurrent disease.