Combining Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

A Human Epithelial Cell (DNA In Blue) With Increased Numbers Of Centrosomes (green) Amid A Sea Of Normal Cells.
National Cancer Institute Univ. of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center; Ryan A. Denu
Will a pairing of immunotherapy and targeted therapy be an effective treatment for pancreatic cancer?

Researchers are comparing two different combinations of immunotherapy and targeted therapy to see which can slow or stop pancreatic cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas.

Treatments in This Trial

The targeted therapy is niraparib (brand name Zejula), a PARP inhibitor. Niraparib blocks the action of the enzymes PARP1 and PARP2. The PARP enzyme is important in repairing small breaks in single DNA strands. Drugs that block the action of PARP make the enzyme less effective at repairing the small breaks.

One immunotherapy drug being tested is nivolumab (brand name Opdivo), an immune checkpoint blockade drug. It works by reactivating T cells to fight cancer cells. Nivolumab is approved to treat melanoma, non-small cell and small cell lung cancer, and other cancers.

The other immunotherapy drug is ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy). It targets a protein receptor located on the surface of the T cells; the protein receptor switches off the T cells’ ability to destroy cancer cells. But by binding to this protein receptor, ipilimumab reengages the T cells, allowing the immune system to work more quickly—taking the “brakes” off—and attack the cancer. It is approved to treat melanoma.

How the Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy Trial Works

This trial is for patients with metastatic or locally advanced pancreatic cancer who are being treated with platinum-based chemotherapy (cisplatin, oxaliplatin, or carboplatin) and have not had any disease progression on these drugs.

Participants will be randomly assigned to either of two experimental groups. One group will receive niraparib and nivolumab; the other will get niraparib and ipilimumab. Researchers are looking at progression-free survival as well as the effectiveness and safety of the combinations.

We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website ClinicalTrials.gov provides more details about this trial as well as many others. You can visit the Clinical Trial Finder for a listing of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.