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1.  Prognostic Factors of Survival in a Randomized Phase III Trial (MPACT) of Weekly nab-Paclitaxel Plus Gemcitabine Versus Gemcitabine Alone in Patients With Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer 
The Oncologist  2015;20(2):143-150.
In the pivotal phase III MPACT trial, nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine demonstrated improved survival compared with gemcitabine alone. This analysis of the phase III study confirms the survival benefit of nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine across many prespecified prognostic factors and the broad utility of this regimen for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
nab-Paclitaxel in combination with gemcitabine has emerged as a new treatment option for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer (MPC), based on superiority over gemcitabine demonstrated in the phase III MPACT trial. Previously, Karnofsky performance status (KPS) score and the presence of liver metastases were shown to be predictive of survival with nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine treatment. This analysis sought to further explore the relationship between clinical characteristics and survival in the MPACT trial and to identify potential predictors of overall survival and progression-free survival in patients with MPC.
Materials and Methods.
Cox regression models adjusted for stratification factors and a stepwise multivariate analysis of prespecified baseline prognostic factors were performed.
Treatment effect was significantly associated with survival, with a similar magnitude of reduction in risk of death compared with the previously reported primary analysis. Treatment effect consistently favored nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine across the majority of the prespecified factors. In addition to KPS score and presence of liver metastases, age and number of metastatic sites were independent prognostic factors of overall and progression-free survival. Baseline carbohydrate antigen 19-9 was not found to be an independent prognostic factor of survival in this analysis.
The results of this analysis confirm broad utility of nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine for the treatment of MPC. In addition, these findings suggest that KPS score, presence of liver metastases, age, and number of metastatic sites are important predictors of survival that may be useful when making treatment decisions and designing future clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC4319641  PMID: 25582141
Pancreatic cancer; nab-Paclitaxel; Gemcitabine; Prognostic factors
2.  Pancreatic cancer: Update on immunotherapies and algenpantucel-L 
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is notoriously lethal, and despite improvements in systemic chemotherapy approaches bringing survival rates for metastatic disease to almost 1 year, by 2030 it is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer death. Pancreatic cancer (PC) prognosis has been associated with both the presence of intratumoral helper and cytotoxic T lymphocytes, as well as humoral immune responses to tumor associated antigens like mesothelin. It is well described that the PC microenvironment is characterized by a fibroinflammatory and immunosuppressive stroma. On these premises several immune-targeted strategies have been developed to harness the adaptable immune system with a goal of improving survival with little toxicity. Cancer vaccines involve the administration of tumor-associated antigens with the goal of inducing an endogenous anti-tumor response. Among several strategies discussed, we will focus on the algenpantucel-L (HyperAcute™ Pancreas) immunotherapy. Algenpantucel-L is a whole cell immunotherapy consisting of irradiated allogeneic PC cells genetically engineered to express the murine enzyme α(1,3)-galactosyltransferase (αGT), which ultimately leads to hyperacute rejection with complement- and antibody-dependent cytotoxicity. While phase III data in the adjuvant treatment of pancreatic cancer are pending, phase II results have been encouraging, particularly for patients who demonstrated humoral immunologic responses. Novel strategies using immune checkpoint inhibitors, costimulatory antibodies, and combinations with cancer vaccines may overcome immunotolerance and improve treatment success.
PMCID: PMC4964650  PMID: 26619245
algenpantucel-L; immunotherapies; pancreatic cancer; vaccines
3.  Phase II Trial of Erlotinib and Docetaxel in Advanced and Refractory Hepatocellular and Biliary Cancers: Hoosier Oncology Group GI06-101 
The Oncologist  2012;17(1):13.
Patients with advanced hepatocellular (HCC) and biliary tract carcinomas (BTC) have poor prognosis. While the EGFR pathway is overactive in HCC and BTC, single agent anti-EGFR therapies confer modest activity. Preclinical data showed synergistic antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects between anti-EGFR therapies and taxanes. We conducted a phase I study of erlotinib and docetaxel in solid tumors, and noted good tolerability and sustained complete (5 years +) and partial responses in patients with HCC and BTC. This trial evaluated the efficacy of erlotinib with docetaxel in refractory hepatobiliary cancers.
Eligible patients were allowed to have two prior systemic therapies. Docetaxel 30 mg/m2 i.v. was administered on days 1, 8, 15, and erlotinib 150 mg was dosed orally on days 2–7, 9–14, 16–28 of each 28-day cycle. The primary endpoint was 16 weeks progression-free survival (PFS), and secondary endpoints included response, stable disease, and overall survival. Tumor samples were analyzed for KRAS gene mutations and E-cadherin expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Patients with BTC and HCC were accrued and assessed in separate strata for the efficacy endpoints, but for the two-stage initial design of the study, combined PFS was considered. A Simon optimal two-stage design tested the hypothesis that the 16-week PFS is ≤ 15% (clinically inactive) versus the alternative of ≥ 30% (warranting further study).
Twenty-five patients, 14 with HCC and 11 with BTC, were enrolled. Common toxicities were rash (76%), diarrhea (56%), and fatigue (52%), mostly grade 1 or 2. No objective responses were seen. Seven BTC (64%) and 6 HCC patients (46%) had stable disease as best response, with a median duration of 16.1 weeks (95% CI 3.7–56.3) for BTC, and 17.6 weeks (95% CI 8.1–49.8) for HCC. The 16-week PFS was 64% for BTC (95% CI 29.7–84.5), and 38% for HCC (95% CI 14.1–62.8). Median overall survival was 5.7 and 6.7 months for BTC and HCC patients, respectively. BTC patients with grade ≥ 2 rash had higher median PFS (6.2 vs 2.2 months) and OS (14.2 vs 4.2 months). HCC patients with negative/low E-cadherin expression had higher median PFS (6.7 vs 2.1 months) and OS (14.5 vs 4 months).
Erlotinib with docetaxel met the 16-week PFS ≥ 30% endpoint, but overall survival was comparable to that seen with single-agent erlotinib. With the limitation of small numbers of patients, grade ≥ 2 rash (in BTC), and negative/low E-cadherin expression (HCC) were associated with higher PFS and OS.
Refractory biliary tract and hepatocellular cancers are difficult to treat, and no chemotherapy or biologically targeted therapies have impacted survival. Based on preclinical synergism and prior phase I data, we conducted a multi-institutional study sequentially combining the EGFR-targeted agent erlotinib with docetaxel.
Results from this study show that the primary endpoint, 16-week PFS of ≥ 30%, was met for the combined group of BTC and HCC patients (as originally planned in the study design), as well as in each disease category: 63.6% for BTC and 38.5% for HCC patients. Nevertheless, no patients attained an objective response and the median survival of 5.7 months for BTC, and 6.7 months for HCC patients (while heavily pretreated), is comparable to that seen with single-agent EGFR-targeted therapies. Safety analysis shows that this regimen was generally well tolerated, and most adverse events were grade 1 or 2. Few patients had reversible grade 3 transaminase elevation (8%), and severe anorexia, fatigue, and rash were uncommon. As expected, patients with grade ≥ 2 rash experienced higher PFS and OS, but this was noted only among the BTC group, likely because too few HCC patients had grade ≥ 2 rash.
KRAS is an important predictive marker for anti-EGFR therapies for lung and colorectal cancers, but for HCC or the heterogeneous group of BTC (with 10–50% KRAS mutations) no significant correlations have been established. We were not able to identify a correlation between KRAS and benefit from erlotinib-based therapy, as all but one HCC patient had KRAS wild type gene status. Preclinical data in multiple tumor types showed that E-cadherin, a signature marker for an “epithelial” tumor phenotype when overexpressed, predicts EGFR pathway activation and determines sensitivity to EGFR-targeted agents. E-cadherin is often seen as a poor prognostic marker when downregulated, as noted during cancer progression. Not all studies demonstrate beneficial effects from E-cadherin overexpression, possibly due to histological expression variability or tumor type specificity for this biomarker. Six BTC and 8 HCC patients had evaluable tumor samples for E-cadherin analysis. While the numbers were small and conclusions should be viewed with caution, negative/low E-cadherin expression was associated with improved PFS and OS for hepatobiliary cancers (most significant in HCC) in this refractory patient population where we expected lower expression levels.
In conclusion, the combination of erlotinib with docetaxel provided a 16-week PFS of ≥ 30% but showed no appreciable differences in overall survival from historical data with single-agent erlotinib. While EGFR represents an important target in this group of malignancies, it is clear that hepatobiliary cancers are heterogeneous, thus a meaningful improvement in survival most likely will require careful treatment selection based on patient tumor's molecular and genetic profiling.
PMCID: PMC3267812  PMID: 22210086
4.  Randomized Phase II Trial of Gemcitabine Plus TH-302 Versus Gemcitabine in Patients With Advanced Pancreatic Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2014;33(13):1475-1481.
TH-302 is an investigational hypoxia-activated prodrug that releases the DNA alkylator bromo-isophosphoramide mustard in hypoxic settings. This phase II study (NCT01144455) evaluated gemcitabine plus TH-302 in patients with previously untreated, locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Patients and Methods
Patients were randomly assigned 1:1:1 to gemcitabine (1,000 mg/m2), gemcitabine plus TH-302 240 mg/m2 (G+T240), or gemcitabine plus TH-302 340 mg/m2 (G+T340). Randomized crossover after progression on gemcitabine was allowed. The primary end point was progression-free survival (PFS). Secondary end points included overall survival (OS), tumor response, CA 19-9 response, and safety.
Two hundred fourteen patients (77% with metastatic disease) were enrolled between June 2010 and July 2011. PFS was significantly longer with gemcitabine plus TH-302 (pooled combination arms) compared with gemcitabine alone (median PFS, 5.6 v 3.6 months, respectively; hazard ratio, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.43 to 0.87; P = .005; median PFS for metastatic disease, 5.1 v 3.4 months, respectively). Median PFS times for G+T240 and G+T340 were 5.6 and 6.0 months, respectively. Tumor response was 12%, 17%, and 26% in the gemcitabine, G+T240, and G+T340 arms, respectively (G+T340 v gemcitabine, P = .04). CA 19-9 decrease was greater with G+T340 versus gemcitabine (−5,398 v −549 U/mL, respectively; P = .008). Median OS times for gemcitabine, G+T240, and G+T340 were 6.9, 8.7, and 9.2 months, respectively (P = not significant). The most common adverse events (AEs) were fatigue, nausea, and peripheral edema (frequencies similar across arms). Skin and mucosal toxicities (2% grade 3) and myelosuppression (55% grade 3 or 4) were the most common TH-302–related AEs but were not associated with treatment discontinuation.
PFS, tumor response, and CA 19-9 response were significantly improved with G+TH-302. G+T340 is being investigated further in the phase III MAESTRO study (NCT01746979).
PMCID: PMC4881365  PMID: 25512461
5.  Second-line therapy after nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine or after gemcitabine for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2016;115(2):188-194.
This exploratory analysis evaluated second-line (2L) therapy for metastatic pancreatic cancer in a large phase 3 trial (MPACT).
Patients who received first-line (1L) nab-paclitaxel+gemcitabine (nab-P+Gem) or Gem were assessed for survival based on 2L treatment received. Multivariate analyses tested influence of treatment effect and prognostic factors on survival.
The majority of 2L treatments (267 out of 347, 77%) contained a fluoropyrimidine (5-fluorouracil or capecitabine). Median total survival (1L randomisation to death) for patients who received 2L treatment after 1L nab-P+Gem vs Gem alone was 12.8 vs 9.9 months (P=0.015). Median total survival for patients with a fluoropyrimidine-containing 2L therapy after nab-P+Gem vs Gem was 13.5 vs 9.5 months (P=0.012). Median 2L survival (duration from start of 2L therapy to death) was 5.3 vs 4.5 months for nab-P+Gem vs Gem, respectively (P=0.886). Factors significantly associated with longer post-1L survival by multivariate analyses included 1L nab-P+Gem, receiving 2L treatment, longer 1L progression-free survival, and Karnofsky performance status⩾70 and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio⩽5 at the end of 1L treatment.
These findings support the use of 2L therapy for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Fluoropyrimidine-containing treatment after 1L nab-P+Gem is an active regimen with significant clinical effect.
PMCID: PMC4947701  PMID: 27351217
metastatic pancreatic cancer; nab-paclitaxel; gemcitabine; MPACT; first line; second line
6.  Metabolomics Method to Comprehensively Analyze Amino Acids in Different Domains 
The Analyst  2015;140(8):2726-2734.
Amino acids play essential roles in both metabolism and the proteome. Many studies have profiled free amino acids (FAAs) or proteins; however, few have connected the measurement of FAA with individual amino acids in the proteome. In this study, we developed a metabolomics method to comprehensively analyze amino acids in different domains, using two examples of different sample types and disease models. We first examined the responses of FAAs and insoluble-proteome amino acids (IPAAs) to the Myc oncogene in Tet21N human neuroblastoma cells. The metabolic and proteomic amino acid profiles were quite different, even under the same Myc-induced transfection, and their combination provided a better understanding of the biological status. In addition, amino acids were measured in 3 domains (FAAs, free and soluble-proteome amino acids (FSPAAs), and IPAAs) to study changes in serum amino acid profiles related to colon cancer. A penalized logistic regression model based on the amino acids from the three domains had better sensitivity and specificity than that from each individual domain. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to perform a combined analysis of amino acids in different domains, and indicates the useful biological information available from a metabolomics analysis of the protein pellet. This study lays the foundation for further quantitative tracking of the distribution of amino acids in different domains, with opportunities for better diagnosis and mechanistic studies of various diseases.
PMCID: PMC4380628  PMID: 25699545
metabolomics; amino acid; Myc; colon cancer
7.  An Open Label Phase 1b Dose Escalation Study of TRC105 (Anti-Endoglin Antibody) with Bevacizumab in Patients with Advanced Cancer 
Endoglin, an endothelial cell membrane receptor expressed on angiogenic tumor vessels, is essential for angiogenesis and upregulated in the setting of VEGF inhibition. TRC105 is an anti-endoglin IgG1 monoclonal antibody that potentiates VEGF inhibitors in preclinical models. This study assessed safety, pharmacokinetics, and anti-tumor activity of TRC105 in combination with bevacizumab.
Patients and Methods
Patients (n=38) with advanced solid tumors, Eastern Cooperative Group performance status 0–1, and normal organ function were treated with escalating doses of TRC105 plus bevacizumab until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity using a standard 3 + 3 phase 1 design.
TRC105 and bevacizumab were well tolerated at their recommended single agent doses (10 mg/kg) when the initial dose of TRC105 was delayed by one week and divided over two days to limit the frequency of headache. The concurrent administration of bevacizumab and TRC105 did not otherwise potentiate known toxicities of TRC105 or bevacizumab. Hypertension and proteinuria were observed, though not at rates expected for single agent bevacizumab. Several patients who had previously progressed on bevacizumab or VEGF receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (VEGFR TKI) treatment experienced reductions in tumor volume, including two partial responses by RECIST, and six remained without progression for longer periods than during their prior VEGF inhibitor therapy.
TRC105 was well tolerated with bevacizumab and clinical activity was observed in a VEGF inhibitor refractory population. Ongoing clinical trials are testing TRC105 in combination with bevacizumab in glioblastoma, and with VEGFR TKIs in renal cell carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, and soft tissue sarcoma.
PMCID: PMC4570619  PMID: 25261556
Endoglin; CD105; TRC105; Vascular endothelial growth factor; Antibody
8.  Increased Survival in Pancreatic Cancer with nab-Paclitaxel plus Gemcitabine 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;369(18):1691-1703.
In a phase 1–2 trial of albumin-bound paclitaxel (nab-paclitaxel) plus gemcitabine, substantial clinical activity was noted in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. We conducted a phase 3 study of the efficacy and safety of the combination versus gemcitabine monotherapy in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.
We randomly assigned patients with a Karnofsky performance-status score of 70 or more (on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating better performance status) to nab-paclitaxel (125 mg per square meter of body-surface area) followed by gemcitabine (1000 mg per square meter) on days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks or gemcitabine monotherapy (1000 mg per square meter) weekly for 7 of 8 weeks (cycle 1) and then on days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks (cycle 2 and subsequent cycles). Patients received the study treatment until disease progression. The primary end point was overall survival; secondary end points were progression-free survival and overall response rate.
A total of 861 patients were randomly assigned to nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine (431 patients) or gemcitabine (430). The median overall survival was 8.5 months in the nab-paclitaxel–gemcitabine group as compared with 6.7 months in the gemcitabine group (hazard ratio for death, 0.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.62 to 0.83; P<0.001). The survival rate was 35% in the nab-paclitaxel–gemcitabine group versus 22% in the gemcitabine group at 1 year, and 9% versus 4% at 2 years. The median progression-free survival was 5.5 months in the nab-paclitaxel–gemcitabine group, as compared with 3.7 months in the gemcitabine group (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.58 to 0.82; P<0.001); the response rate according to independent review was 23% versus 7% in the two groups (P<0.001). The most common adverse events of grade 3 or higher were neutropenia (38% in the nab-paclitaxel–gemcitabine group vs. 27% in the gemcitabine group), fatigue (17% vs. 7%), and neuropathy (17% vs. 1%). Febrile neutropenia occurred in 3% versus 1% of the patients in the two groups. In the nab-paclitaxel–gemcitabine group, neuropathy of grade 3 or higher improved to grade 1 or lower in a median of 29 days.
In patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma, nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine significantly improved overall survival, progression-free survival, and response rate, but rates of peripheral neuropathy and myelosuppression were increased. (Funded by Celgene; number, NCT00844649.)
PMCID: PMC4631139  PMID: 24131140
9.  Anticancer activity of the type I insulin-like growth factor receptor antagonist, ganitumab, in combination with the death receptor 5 agonist, conatumumab 
Targeted oncology  2014;10(1):65-76.
Agents targeting the insulin-like growth factor receptor type 1 (IGF1R) have shown antitumor activity. Based on the evidence for interaction between the IGF-1 and TRAIL pathways, we hypothesized that the combination of ganitumab (monoclonal antibody to IGF1R) with the pro-apoptotic death receptor 5 agonist, conatumumab, might increase antitumor response. Ganitumab and conatumumab were tested in combination in a Colo-205 xenograft model. Part 1 of the clinical study was a phase Ib program of three doses of conatumumab (1, 3, 15 mg/kg) in combination with 18 mg/kg ganitumab to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) in patients with advanced solid tumors. Part 2 was conducted in six cohorts with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (squamous or nonsquamous histology), colorectal cancer, sarcoma, pancreatic cancer, or ovarian cancer, treated at the recommended doses of the combination. The combination was significantly more active in the Colo-205 xenograft model than either single agent alone (p<0.0015). In part 1 of the clinical study, no dose-limiting toxicities were observed and the MTD of conatumumab was 15 mg/kg in combination with 18 mg/kg ganitumab. In part 2, 78 patients were treated and there were no objective responses but 28 patients (36 %) had stable disease (median 46 days, range 0–261). The combination was well-tolerated with no new toxicities. In conclusion, the combination of ganitumab and conatumumab was well-tolerated but had no objective responses in the population tested. The successful future application of this combination of antitumor mechanisms may rely on the identification of predictive biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC4317391  PMID: 24816908
Monoclonal antibodies; Insulin-like growth factor receptor; Death receptor; TRAIL; Apoptosis; Targeted therapy
10.  A phase I study of an agonist CD40 monoclonal antibody (CP-870,893) in combination with gemcitabine in patients with advanced pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma 
This phase I study investigated the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), safety, pharmacodynamics, immunological correlatives, and anti-tumor activity of CP-870,893, an agonist CD40 antibody, when administered in combination with gemcitabine in patients with advanced pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA).
Experimental Design
Twenty-two patients with chemotherapy-naïve advanced PDA were treated with 1000 mg/m2 gemcitabine once weekly for 3 weeks with infusion of CP-870,893 at 0.1 mg/kg or 0.2 mg/kg on day 3 of each 28 day cycle.
CP-870,893 was well-tolerated; one dose-limiting toxicity (grade 4 cerebrovascular accident) occurred at the 0.2 mg/kg dose level, which was estimated as MTD. The most common adverse event was cytokine release syndrome (grade 1 to 2). CP-870,893 infusion triggered immune activation marked by an increase in inflammatory cytokines, an increase in B cell expression of co-stimulatory molecules, and a transient depletion of B cells. Four patients achieved a partial response (PR). [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) demonstrated >25% decrease in FDG uptake within primary pancreatic lesions in 6 of 8 patients; however, responses observed in metastatic lesions were heterogeneous with some lesions responding with complete loss of FDG uptake while other lesions in the same patient failed to respond. Improved overall survival correlated with a decrease in FDG uptake in hepatic lesions (R = −0.929; p = 0.007).
CP-870,893 in combination with gemcitabine was well-tolerated and associated with anti-tumor activity in patients with PDA. Changes in FDG uptake detected on PET/CT imaging provide insight into therapeutic benefit. Phase II studies are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3834036  PMID: 23983255
Pancreatic cancer; immunotherapy; CD40; CP-870,893; PET imaging; heterogeneity
11.  Combining hedgehog signaling inhibition with focal irradiation on reduction of pancreatic cancer metastasis 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(6):1038-1048.
Pancreatic cancer often presents in advanced stages and is unresponsive to conventional treatments. Thus, the need to develop novel treatment strategies for pancreatic cancer has never been greater. Here we report that combination of focal irradiation with hedgehog (Hh) signaling inhibition exerts better than additive effects on reducing metastases. In an orthotopic model, we found that focal irradiation alone effectively reduced primary tumor growth but did not significantly affect metastasis. We hypothesized that cancer stem cells (CSC) of pancreatic cancer are responsible for the residual tumors following irradiation, which may be regulated by Hh signaling. To test our hypothesis, we showed that tumor metastasis in our model was accompanied by increased expression of CSC cell surface markers as well as Hh target genes. We generated tumor spheres from orthotopic pancreatic and metastatic tumors, which have elevated levels of CSC markers relative to the parental cells and elevated expression of Hh target genes. Irradiation of tumor spheres further elevated CSC cell surface markers and increased Hh target gene expression. Combination of Hh signaling inhibition with radiation had more than additive effects on tumor sphere regeneration in vitro. This phenotype was observed in two independent cell lines. In our orthotopic animal model, focal radiation plus Hh inhibition had more than additive effects on reducing lymph node metastasis. We identified several potential molecules in mediating Hh signaling effects. Taken together, our data provide a rationale for combined use of Hh inhibition with irradiation for clinical treatment of pancreatic cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3681871  PMID: 23468532
12.  Contribution of Environment and Genetics to Pancreatic Cancer Susceptibility 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90052.
Several risk factors have been identified as potential contributors to pancreatic cancer development, including environmental and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking and diet, and medical conditions such as diabetes and pancreatitis, all of which generate oxidative stress and DNA damage. Oxidative stress status can be modified by environmental factors and also by an individual's unique genetic makeup. Here we examined the contribution of environment and genetics to an individual's level of oxidative stress, DNA damage and susceptibility to pancreatic cancer in a pilot study using three groups of subjects: a newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer group, a healthy genetically-unrelated control group living with the case subject, and a healthy genetically-related control group which does not reside with the subject. Oxidative stress and DNA damage was evaluated by measuring total antioxidant capacity, direct and oxidative DNA damage by Comet assay, and malondialdehyde levels. Direct DNA damage was significantly elevated in pancreatic cancer patients (age and sex adjusted mean ± standard error: 1.00±0.05) versus both healthy unrelated and related controls (0.70±0.06, p<0.001 and 0.82±0.07, p = 0.046, respectively). Analysis of 22 selected SNPs in oxidative stress and DNA damage genes revealed that CYP2A6 L160H was associated with pancreatic cancer. In addition, DNA damage was found to be associated with TNFA −308G>A and ERCC4 R415Q polymorphisms. These results suggest that measurement of DNA damage, as well as select SNPs, may provide an important screening tool to identify individuals at risk for development of pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC3961224  PMID: 24651674
13.  Phase 1 dose-escalation, pharmacokinetic, and cerebrospinal fluid distribution study of TAK-285, an investigational inhibitor of EGFR and HER2 
Investigational New Drugs  2013;32(1):160-170.
Introduction This phase 1 study assessed safety, maximum tolerated dose (MTD), pharmacokinetics, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) distribution, and preliminary clinical activity of the receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor TAK-285. Methods Patients with advanced, histologically confirmed solid tumors and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status ≤2 received daily oral TAK-285; daily dose was escalated within defined cohorts until MTD and recommended phase 2 dose (RP2D) were determined. Eleven patients were enrolled into an RP2D cohort. Blood samples were collected from all cohorts; CSF was collected at pharmacokinetic steady-state from RP2D patients. Tumor responses were assessed every 8 weeks per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors. Results Fifty-four patients were enrolled (median age 60; range, 35–76 years). The most common diagnoses were cancers of the colon (28 %), breast (17 %), and pancreas (9 %). Escalation cohorts evaluated doses from 50 mg daily to 500 mg twice daily; the MTD/RP2D was 400 mg twice daily. Dose-limiting toxicities included diarrhea, hypokalemia, and fatigue. Drug absorption was fast (median time of maximum concentration was 2–3 h), and mean half-life was 9 h. Steady-state average unbound CSF concentration (geometric mean 1.54 [range, 0.51–4.27] ng/mL; n = 5) at the RP2D was below the 50 % inhibitory concentration (9.3 ng/mL) for inhibition of tyrosine kinase activity in cells expressing recombinant HER2. Best response was stable disease (12 weeks of nonprogression) in 13 patients. Conclusions TAK-285 was generally well tolerated at the RP2D. Distribution in human CSF was confirmed, but the free concentration of the drug was below that associated with biologically relevant target inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3913854  PMID: 23817974
Breast cancer; Brain metastases; EGFR; HER2; Pharmacokinetics
14.  A Phase I Study of Sunitinib Plus Capecitabine in Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(29):4513-4520.
This open-label, phase I, dose-escalation study assessed the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), safety, pharmacokinetics, and antitumor activity of sunitinib in combination with capecitabine in patients with advanced solid tumors.
Patients and Methods
Sunitinib (25, 37.5, or 50 mg) was administered orally once daily on three dosing schedules: 4 weeks on treatment, 2 weeks off treatment (Schedule 4/2); 2 weeks on treatment, 1 week off treatment (Schedule 2/1); and continuous daily dosing (CDD schedule). Capecitabine (825, 1,000, or 1,250 mg/m2) was administered orally twice daily on days 1 to 14 every 3 weeks for all patients. Sunitinib and capecitabine doses were escalated in serial patient cohorts.
Seventy-three patients were treated. Grade 3 adverse events included abdominal pain, mucosal inflammation, fatigue, neutropenia, and hand-foot syndrome. The MTD for Schedule 4/2 and the CDD schedule was sunitinib 37.5 mg/d plus capecitabine 1,000 mg/m2 twice per day; the MTD for Schedule 2/1 was sunitinib 50 mg/d plus capecitabine 1,000 mg/m2 twice per day. There were no clinically significant pharmacokinetic drug-drug interactions. Nine partial responses were confirmed in patients with pancreatic cancer (n = 3) and breast, thyroid, neuroendocrine, bladder, and colorectal cancer, and cholangiocarcinoma (each n = 1).
The combination of sunitinib and capecitabine resulted in an acceptable safety profile in patients with advanced solid tumors. Further evaluation of sunitinib in combination with capecitabine may be undertaken using the MTD for any of the three treatment schedules.
PMCID: PMC2988641  PMID: 20837944
15.  Role of fatty acid synthase in gemcitabine and radiation resistance of pancreatic cancers 
Human fatty acid synthase (FASN) is a homo-dimeric protein with multi-enzymatic activity responsible for the synthesis of palmitate. FASN expression has been found to be up-regulated in multiple types of human cancers and its expression correlates with poor prognosis possibly by causing treatment resistance. In this study, we tested if FASN expression is up-regulated in human pancreatic cancers and if its higher expression level in pancreatic cancers causes intrinsic resistance to gemcitabine and radiation. We found that FASN expression is significantly up-regulated in human pancreatic cancer tissues without any correlation to age, sex, race, and tumor stage. Knocking down or over-expressing FASN significantly down- or up-regulate resistance of pancreatic cancer cell lines to both gemcitabine and radiation treatments. These findings imply that the elevated FASN expression in pancreatic cancers may contribute to unsuccessful treatments of pancreatic cancers by causing intrinsic resistance to both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
PMCID: PMC3039422  PMID: 21331354
Human fatty acid synthase (FASN); palmitate; gemcitabine; radiation treatments; treatment resistance; pancreatic cancers
16.  Phase I Pharmacologic and Biologic Study of Ramucirumab (IMC-1121B), a Fully Human Immunoglobulin G1 Monoclonal Antibody Targeting the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(5):780-787.
To evaluate the safety, maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), pharmacokinetics (PKs), pharmacodynamics, and preliminary anticancer activity of ramucirumab (IMC-1121B), a fully human immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR)-2.
Patients and Methods
Patients with advanced solid malignancies were treated once weekly with escalating doses of ramucirumab. Blood was sampled for PK studies throughout treatment. The effects of ramucirumab on circulating vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), soluble VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2, tumor perfusion, and vascularity using dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging were assessed.
Thirty-seven patients were treated with 2 to 16 mg/kg of ramucirumab. After one patient each developed dose-limiting hypertension and deep venous thrombosis at 16 mg/kg, the next lower dose (13 mg/kg) was considered the MTD. Nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and proteinuria were also noted. Four (15%) of 27 patients with measurable disease had a partial response (PR), and 11 (30%) of 37 patients had either a PR or stable disease lasting at least 6 months. PKs were characterized by dose-dependent elimination and nonlinear exposure consistent with saturable clearance. Mean trough concentrations exceeded biologically relevant target levels throughout treatment at all dose levels. Serum VEGF-A increased 1.5 to 3.5 times above pretreatment values and remained in this range throughout treatment at all dose levels. Tumor perfusion and vascularity decreased in 69% of evaluable patients.
Objective antitumor activity and antiangiogenic effects were observed over a wide range of dose levels, suggesting that ramucirumab may have a favorable therapeutic index in treating malignancies amenable to VEGFR-2 inhibition.
PMCID: PMC2834394  PMID: 20048182
17.  Role of fatty acid synthase in gemcitabine and radiation resistance of pancreatic cancers 
Human fatty acid synthase (FASN) is a homo-dimeric protein with multi-enzymatic activity responsible for the synthesis of palmitate. FASN expression has been found to be up-regulated in multiple types of human cancers and its expression correlates with poor prognosis possibly by causing treatment resistance. In this study, we tested if FASN expression is up-regulated in human pancreatic cancers and if its higher expression level in pancreatic cancers causes intrinsic resistance to gemcitabine and radiation. We found that FASN expression is significantly up-regulated in human pancreatic cancer tissues without any correlation to age, sex, race, and tumor stage. Knocking down or over-expressing FASN significantly down- or up-regulate resistance of pancreatic cancer cell lines to both gemcitabine and radiation treatments. These findings imply that the elevated FASN expression in pancreatic cancers may contribute to unsuccessful treatments of pancreatic cancers by causing intrinsic resistance to both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
PMCID: PMC3039422  PMID: 21331354
Human fatty acid synthase (FASN); palmitate; gemcitabine; radiation treatments; treatment resistance; pancreatic cancers

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