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Today’s oncology session highlighted the potential of new immunotherapies for treating patients with unresectable HCC.

Patients with advanced or unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have limited treatment options. The anti-angiogenic therapy sorafenib currently forms the backbone of treatment but prognosis remains poor and 1- and 3-year survival is low. However, several late-breaking presentations delivered at today’s oncology session highlighted the potential of new immunotherapies for treating patients with unresectable HCC.

Results from the open-label phase III IMbrave 150 study indicated that atezolizumab plus the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor antibody bevacizumab has a safety profile that is comparable with sorafenib as first-line therapy for patients with unresectable HCC. Likewise, a phase Ib study of first-line therapy with the multikinase inhibitor lenvatinib in combination with the anti-programmed death-1 monoclonal antibody pembrolizumab also reported an acceptable safety profile, alongside promising antitumour activity, triggering initiation of a phase III trial of this combination in patients with HCC.

Additional studies of immunotherapies for patients with HCC reported:

    • Subgroup analyses by duration of prior sorafenib therapy and other characteristics in the phase I/II CheckMate 040 study of the efficacy and tolerability of nivolumab plus ipilimumab in patients with advanced HCC.
    • Genetically engineered ADP-A2AFP specific peptide enhanced affinity receptor (SPEAR) T-cells that target α-fetoprotein-positive tumours in the context of HLA-A*02, which are currently being investigated in a phase I study of patients with HCC, had no clear reports of T-cell related on-target or off-target toxicity, and no protocol-defined dose-limiting toxicities.

With both antibody- and T-cell-based immunotherapies both reporting acceptable safety and tolerability profiles across these studies, as well as positive efficacy results, improved outcomes for patients with advanced or unresectable HCC may be a step closer.

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