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Montefiore in the News

September 26, 2016

Researchers Offer New Direction for Strengthening Immunotherapies and

Recommend Guideline Changes for Dosing and Delivery of Combination Treatments


NEW YORK (September 26, 2016) –  Members of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care and Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s NCI–designated Albert Einstein Cancer Center will present new study findings at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) that will advance treatment of pancreatic and anal cancers. Researchers will also lead a discussion about implementing a cost efficient workflow for treatment of the most advanced forms of throat cancer. These are some of the highlights at ASTRO 2016, which is taking place at the Boston Convention Center from September 25-28.

“For too long people with pancreatic cancer have faced poor prognoses, with immunotherapies offering little hope,” said Shalom Kalnicki, M.D., professor and chair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Montefiore-Einstein. “By combining radiation therapy and immunotherapy we have obtained promising results that indicate that we can change how the body reacts to cancer cells and that we have the potential to enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapies in fighting diseases that are difficult to treat. We are excited about this progress, which we believe represents the future of effective cancer therapies. We look forward to sharing these findings and presenting new recommendations for effectively treating several cancers.”

Following are the oral presentations Montefiore-Einstein investigators will deliver at the meeting, which are embargoed until the time of presentation. Additionally, Dr. Kalnicki will be one of ten individuals honored with the ASTRO Fellows designation for his significant contributions to the field of radiation oncology and improving patient outcomes.

Investigators are available for interviews specific to their presentation or to comment on other reports of interest at ASTRO 2016.

1.      Epigenetic Priming and High-Dose Radiation for Enhanced Immune Response in Pancreatic Cancer – Presented by Kartik Mani, M.D., Ph.D., chief resident, Department of Radiation Oncology, Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care. Tuesday, September 27 at 2:55pm. Biology Track – Room #257 A/B – Presentation 196.

  • Immunotherapy aims to boost the body's immune system. So far it has helped improve outcomes in lung cancer, bladder cancer and melanoma. However, people with cancers such as pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer and triple negative breast cancer have not benefited from this treatment. Those cancers do not trigger an immune response because their cells don’t display key proteins (antigens) that the immune system needs to recognize in order to launch an attack. Montefiore-Einstein researchers speculated that the genes responsible for making these antigens had been epigenetically “turned off” so the researchers developed a novel one-two punch to enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapy: (1) a drug to “turn on” the genes that cause cancer cells to make antigens; and (2) a single high dose of radiation. The researchers found that this combination significantly bolstered the immune response against pancreatic cancer cells. This novel approach offers new hope for people suffering from pancreatic cancer and holds promise for making immunotherapy effective against diseases that are difficult to treat.

2.      Radiation Therapy Compliance/Quality Assurance (QA) in Two Phase II Trials of Cetuximab Plus Combined Modality Therapy (CMT) including Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy (RT) for Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Anal Cancer (SCCAC) in Patients with (AMC045) Presented by Madhur Garg, M.D., clinical director, Department of Radiation Oncology, Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care and professor of clinical radiation oncology at Einstein. Tuesday, September 27 at 5:15pm. Gastrointestinal Track – Room #160 A/B/C – Presentation 239

  • Cases of anal cancer are on the rise, with most people being diagnosed in their early 60s. Effective treatments exist for this disease, but some patients—particularly people who are HIV positive—are not being cured. Montefiore-Einstein researchers led two national studies, involving both HIV-negative and HIV-positive patients, that evaluated dosages of targeted therapies combined with chemotherapy and radiation. The studies found that HIV-positive patients can tolerate treatment well and have comparable cure rates with non-HIV patients.

3.      Patterns of Failure and Origin of Recurrence on PET/CT for Laryngeal Cancer Patients Treated with Definitive IMRT– Discussion led by Rafi Kabarriti, M.D., attending physician, Department of Radiation Oncology, Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Einstein. Wednesday, September 28 at 11:00am. Physics Track – Room #052 B – Presentation 1135.

  • New therapies have improved treatment of laryngeal cancer and enhanced the quality of life for patients with this disease, but treatment of advanced laryngeal cancers remains a challenge. This is largely because of cancer recurrence. Advanced laryngeal cancers have cure rates of only 62 percent compared with cure rates of around 90 percent for less-advanced cases. To gain insight into why treatment for advanced laryngeal cancer often fails, Montefiore-Einstein researchers studied patients whose laryngeal tumors had recurred following intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Using CT-PET scans and software tools, the researchers pinpointed where in the treated tumor the cancer recurrence had originated. Eighty six percent of the recurrences originated in tumor regions treated with high-dose radiation. This finding will help identify patients who are at high risk of recurrence and lays the groundwork for a clinical trial using this novel treatment regimen.