Comprehensive tumor profiling promises new therapeutic options for patients with advanced cancer

The WINTHER trial, NCT01856296, led by investigators from Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology - VHIO (Spain), Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Israel) (Raanan Berger), Gustave Roussy (France) (Jean-Charles Soria), Centre Léon Bérard (France) (Pierre Saintigny), Segal Cancer Centre, McGill University (Canada) (Wilson H. Miller), UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (USA) (Jordi Rodon and Apostolia-Maria Tsimberidou) and University of California San Diego, Moores Cancer Center (USA) (Razelle Kurzrock), aimed to expand precision oncology to patients with advanced solid tumors that progressed after treatment with standard therapies.

For the first time in the clinic, the WINTHER trial applied transcriptomics (RNA expression testing) to tailor precision medicine in oncology to a greater number of patients based on the increased expression of RNA in tumors compared to normal tissues. 303 patients were enrolled in WINTHER; 107 of whom were ultimately treated according to recommendations made by a committee of cancer experts spanning five countries. These patients had been heavily pretreated, with one quarter having received five or more prior lines of therapy. Of the 107 patients treated, 69 received treatment based on DNA mutation profiling, and 38 based on RNA profiling. Overall, the WINTHER trial succeeded in matching personalized therapy to 35% of patients with advanced cancer.

"The strategy employed in WINTHER resulted in a higher proportion of patients treated than in many precision medicine trials. Previous studies have identified potential treatments for between 5% and 25 % of patients based on DNA profiling alone, our findings represent an important step toward delivering on the true promise of precision medicine in oncology," said Richard L. Schilsky, Chairman WIN Consortium and Chief Medical Officer of ASCO.

In this trial, patients were first evaluated for targetable alterations in cancer driver genes. Those who were not matched to drugs based on DNA alterations received a treatment tailored to the differences in gene expression between patients' tumors and normal tissues which were assessed using a patented algorithm developed by the WIN Consortium. Comparisons with normal tissues proved essential due to highly variable RNA expression between patients and across normal tissue types. The WINTHER researchers showed that RNA expression can be used to expand personalized therapy options for patients and that normal tissue biopsy is safe and accepted by patients.

Patients who received therapy optimally tailored to their respective DNA alterations, or consistent with the algorithm recommendation for RNA guided treatment, responded better. Patients with a good performance status and a high degree of matching had a significantly longer median overall survival of 25.8 months versus 4.5 months for others. There was also a correlation between degree of matching and progression-free survival independent of the number of prior therapies. "Importantly, our results show that patients treated with a drug or regimen more closely matched to the molecular profile of their tumor, do better," observed Razelle Kurzrock, co-leader of the WINTHER trial and Director of UCSD Moores Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy.

"Assessing RNA is an important adjunct to DNA profiling for determining precision treatments. WINTHER rings in a new era for personalized medicine in oncology," concluded Josep Tabernero, Vice-Chairman WIN Consortium, Director VHIO and President ESMO.

Jordi Rodon, Jean-Charles Soria, Raanan Berger, Wilson H Miller, Eitan Rubin, Aleksandra Kugel, Apostolia Tsimberidou, Pierre Saintigny, Aliza Ackerstein, Irene Braña, Yohann Loriot, Mohammad Afshar, Vincent Miller, Fanny Wunder, Catherine Bresson, Jean-François Martini, Jacques Raynaud, John Mendelsohn, Gerald Batist, Amir Onn, Josep Tabernero, Richard L Schilsky, Vladimir Lazar, J Jack Lee, Razelle Kurzrock.
Genomic and transcriptomic profiling expands precision cancer medicine: the WINTHER trial.
Nature Medicine (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0424-4.

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