NETRF is pleased to announce awards for world-class research to explore the potential of immunotherapy in NETs. This rapidly expanding class of therapies has proven successful in treating melanoma, lung cancer, and bladder cancer, but little research has been devoted to NETs. Three new NETRF-sponsored studies by principal investigators Tim Meyer, MD, PhD, Matthew Kulke, MD, and Daniel Halperin, MD, will explore critical questions on the use of immunotherapy in NETs.
What type of immunotherapy may be best suited for NETs?
Tim Meyer, MD, PhD, UCL Cancer Institute, University College, London, England
Dr. Tim Meyer and colleagues will try to identify which immune system pathways stop the body from releasing “soldier” cells that can recognize and attack NET cells. “With the support of the NETRF, I have assembled a team of world leading scientists and clinicians at UCL, London who will focus on defining the immune landscape of NETs,” said Dr. Meyer.
FDA-approved immunotherapies in other cancer types block PD-1, PD-L1, or CTLA-4 pathways, which jumpstarts the body’s ability to fight cancer cells. But which of these immune checkpoint inhibitors is best suited for NETs? By trying to understand the role of the different immune system pathways in NETs, Dr. Meyer’s work may help inform therapeutic advances and bring the benefits of immunotherapy to patients with NETs.
How do small intestine tumors respond to immunotherapy?
Matthew H. Kulke, MD, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Dr. Matthew Kulke and colleagues will use a newly developed laboratory model to establish the role of immunotherapies in treating small intestine NETs. “A better understanding of the immune environment of NETs is vital to establish the role immune therapies will have in this setting,” said Dr. Kulke.
Dr. Kulke’s lab will assess the impact of currently available anti-PD-1 immunotherapies, such as nivolumab or pembrolizumab, on NETs. The team will also characterize circulating immune markers in the blood of patients with NETs to provide insights on the potential of current and future immunotherapies in this disease.
Does the immune landscape of pancreatic NETs vary by genomic alteration?
Daniel M. Halperin, MD, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
Dr. Daniel Halperin and colleagues will analyze the immune environment of advanced pancreatic NETs (pNETs), which have been classified clinically and genomically, to look for patterns that may predict response. “Any findings can directly inform clinical trials of new drugs for our patients who need them. Our hope is that this work will permit us to move the right drugs into trials for the patients most likely to benefit as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Halperin.
Dr. Halperin’s team will explore the relationship between underlying genomic alterations and actionable immune targets, and strengthen our ability to select or combine different classes of therapies. Dr. Halperin’s work helps move us towards a subclassified perspective of pNETs, based on molecular characteristics, which could support increased predictive, prognostic, and therapeutic precision.
NETRF is playing a leadership role in exploring the role of immunotherapy in NETs. “We are out in front of this promising development in cancer care,” said Effie Tzameli, PhD, Director of Research, NETRF. “Our mission is to fund cutting-edge, peer-reviewed research in NETs, and we hope that these three studies will collectively decipher how and where current immunotherapies fit in the treatment paradigm.”