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M Cives, J Strosberg, S Al Diffalha and D Coppola

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown promising results in different cancers, and correlation between immune infiltration, expression of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) by tumor cells and response to immunotherapy has been reported. There is limited knowledge regarding the immune microenvironment of small bowel (SB) neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). This work was aimed at characterizing the immune landscape of SB NETs. Expression of PD-L1 and programmed death-1 (PD-1) was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in 102 surgically resected, primary NETs of the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Extent and characteristics of the tumor-associated immune infiltrate were also assessed and investigated in their prognostic potential. We detected the expression of PD-L1 in ≥1 and ≥50% of tumor cells in 40/102 (39%; 95% CI, 30–49%) and 14/102 (14%; 95% CI, 8–22%) cases respectively. Intratumor host immune response was apparently absent in 35/102 cases (34%; 95% CI, 25–44%), mild to moderate in 46/102 samples (45%, 95% CI, 35–55%), intense in 21/102 tumors (21%, 95% CI, 13–30%). Expression of PD-L1 and extent of immune infiltration were significantly higher in duodenal NETs as compared with jejunal/ileal NETs. A marked peritumoral host response was organized as ectopic lymph node-like structures in 18/102 cases (18%; 95% CI, 11–26%). Neither PD-L1 expression nor the degree of immune infiltration showed any prognostic significance. Overall, the immune landscape of SB NETs is heterogeneous, with adaptive immune resistance mechanisms prevailing in duodenal NETs. Clinical trials of immune checkpoint inhibitors should take into account the immune heterogeneity of SB NETs.

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M Cives, P L Kunz, B Morse, D Coppola, M J Schell, T Campos, P T Nguyen, P Nandoskar, V Khandelwal and J R Strosberg

Pasireotide long-acting repeatable (LAR) is a novel somatostatin analog (SSA) with avid binding affinity to somatostatin receptor subtypes 1, 2, 3 (SSTR1,2,3) and 5 (SSTR5). Results from preclinical studies indicate that pasireotide can inhibit neuroendocrine tumor (NET) growth more robustly than octreotide in vitro. This open-label, phase II study assessed the clinical activity of pasireotide in treatment-naïve patients with metastatic grade 1 or 2 NETs. Patients with metastatic pancreatic and extra-pancreatic NETs were treated with pasireotide LAR (60 mg every 4 weeks). Previous systemic therapy, including octreotide and lanreotide, was not permitted. Tumor assessments were performed every 3 months using Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) criteria. The primary endpoint was progression-free survival (PFS). The secondary endpoints included overall survival (OS), overall radiographic response rate (ORR), and safety. Twenty-nine patients were treated with pasireotide LAR (60 mg every 4 weeks) and 28 were evaluable for response. The median PFS was 11 months. The most favorable effect was observed in patients with low hepatic tumor burden, normal baseline chromogranin A, and high tumoral SSTR5 expression. Median OS has not been reached; the 30-month OS rate was 70%. The best radiographic response was partial response in one patient (4%), stable disease in 17 patients (60%), and progressive disease in ten patients (36%). Although grade 3/4 toxicities were rare, pasireotide LAR treatment was associated with a 79% rate of hyperglycemia including 14% grade 3 hyperglycemia. Although pasireotide appears to be an effective antiproliferative agent in the treatment of advanced NETs, the high incidence of hyperglycemia raises concerns regarding its suitability as a first-line systemic agent in unselected patients. SSTR5 expression is a potentially predictive biomarker for response.

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J R Strosberg, M Cives, J Hwang, T Weber, M Nickerson, C E Atreya, A Venook, R K Kelley, T Valone, B Morse, D Coppola and E K Bergsland

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are highly vascular neoplasms overexpressing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as well as VEGF receptors (VEGFR). Axitinib is a potent, selective inhibitor of VEGFR-1, -2 and -3, currently approved for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma. We performed an open-label, two-stage design, phase II trial of axitinib 5mg twice daily in patients with progressive unresectable/metastatic low-to-intermediate grade carcinoid tumors. The primary end points were progression-free survival (PFS) and 12-month PFS rate. The secondary end points included time to treatment failure (TTF), overall survival (OS), overall radiographic response rate (ORR), biochemical response rate and safety. A total of 30 patients were enrolled and assessable for toxicity; 22 patients were assessable for response. After a median follow-up of 29months, we observed a median PFS of 26.7months (95% CI, 11.4–35.1), with a 12-month PFS rate of 74.5% (±10.2). The median OS was 45.3 months (95% CI, 24.4–45.3), and the median TTF was 9.6months (95% CI, 5.5–12). The best radiographic response was partial response (PR) in 1/30 (3%) and stable disease (SD) in 21/30 patients (70%); 8/30 patients (27%) were unevaluable due to early withdrawal due to toxicity. Hypertension was the most common toxicity that developed in 27 patients (90%). Grade 3/4 hypertension was recorded in 19 patients (63%), leading to treatment discontinuation in six patients (20%). Although axitinib appears to have an inhibitory effect on tumor growth in patients with advanced, progressive carcinoid tumors, the high rate of grade 3/4 hypertension may represent a potential impediment to its use in unselected patients.