Public Release: 

Clinical trial using immunotherapy drug combinations to treat lung cancer appears safe

Dr. Glen Weiss presents initial results from 'PembroPlus' lung cancer clinical trial at 16th World Conference on Lung Cancer

Cancer Treatment Centers of America


IMAGE: Dr. Glen Weiss, Director of Clinical Research and Medical Oncologist at CTCA at Western, where he currently supervises more than 30 clinical trials involving hundreds of patients. view more

Credit: Photo courtesy of CTCA

(Goodyear, Arizona - September 9, 2015) - Pembrolizumab, or pembro, an immunotherapy drug that unmasks cancer cells and allows the body's own immune system to help destroy tumors, appears to be safe in treating lung cancers, according to a study by Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Western Regional Medical Center (Western) in Goodyear, Arizona.

Dr. Glen Weiss, M.D., M.B.A., is the first author of the study abstract: Phase Ib/II Study of Pembrolizumab plus Chemotherapy in Advanced Cancer: Results of lung cancer patients receiving (at least) 1 prior line of therapy. Dr. Weiss presented the initial results from this study during the 16th World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC), which concluded today in Denver.

The "PembroPlus" clinical trial launched in January 2014 and combines more traditional chemotherapy drugs (gemcitabine, docetaxel, nab-paclitaxel, vinorelbine, irinotecan, and/or liposomal doxorubicin) with immunotherapy (pembrolizumab), activating the body's own immune system to improve upon results that may be achieved from chemotherapy alone. Findings presented today at the WCLC are based on the updated results of 12 lung cancer patients enrolled in the clinical trial with pembro and irinotecan or gemcitabine with or without vinorelbine or docetaxel.

"We found that the combination of pembrolizumab and chemotherapies evaluated thus far -- in patients with advanced small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) -- appears to be safe," said Dr. Glen Weiss, Director of Clinical Research and Medical Oncologist at CTCA® at Western, where he currently supervises more than 30 clinical trials involving hundreds of patients. "We are excited to share these initial trial results with our colleagues around the world."

Dr. Weiss' study of pembrolizumab was presented during a session on small cell lung cancer today when the theme of the conference was Science Drives Lung Cancer Advances.

Dr. Weiss is a physician-scientist who not only provides patient care in the clinic but also is intricately involved in pioneering biomedical laboratory research and discoveries.

The clinical research and clinical trials program at CTCA at Western has grown exponentially under the leadership of Dr. Weiss. Since its inception in 2012, patient enrollment in treatment trials at CTCA at Western has increased by more than 800 percent. So far in 2015, the hospital exceeded the national average for adult patients participating on research studies by about 300 percent.

"We believe these studies and clinical trials that combine immunotherapy with chemotherapy are advancing efforts toward better clinical care and more positive outcomes for our patients at CTCA," said Dr. Vivek Khemka, Medical Oncologist, CTCA at Western and the WCLC study abstract's principal investigator and senior author.

More than 9,000 delegates from across the globe attended the WCLC, one of the largest international gatherings of clinicians and scientists in the field of lung cancer and thoracic malignancies. The program covered a wide range of disciplines, including more than 300 invited talks and 3,000 scientific abstracts presented in oral and poster sessions.

Delegates included those interested in all aspects of lung cancer, including surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists, pathologists, epidemiologists, basic research scientists, with special sessions for nurses, allied health professionals and advocacy members. The WCLC convention was sponsored by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

Dr. Weiss, who recently was nominated for the second year in a row as AZ Business magazine's Researcher of the Year, also presented two other abstracts at WCLC related to new drug treatments:

  • One, in which Dr. Weiss was the senior author, highlighted the extended survival of metastatic small cell lung cancer (SCLC) patients who received statins. The study was based on a pre-clinical, drug-repositioning study of 876 patients with SCLC. The abstract title was: Attempt to Validate Drug Repositioning for Metastatic Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) Therapy Identifies Statins Associated with Survival Benefit.?

  • Another emphasized the enhanced anti-tumor activity of chemotherapy in combination with drugs that inactivate a proteasome function. The study found that carfilzomib and irinotecan have a potential synergistic effect in SCLC and other Irinotecan-sensitive cancers by allowing normal DNA damage repair and enabling normal cell-cycle death. The abstract title was: CTC 11-001: Phase I study of Carfilzomib (C) + Irinotecan (I) in relapsed solid tumors.

"The abstracts we presented at WCLC are prime examples of how our growing body of research and studies at CTCA at Western are advancing medicine and hold the potential to provide patients with better cancer treatments," Dr. Weiss said.


Dr. Weiss earned a medical degree from Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv, Israel. He completed an internal medicine residency at SUNY-Downstate in Brooklyn, New York. He went on to finish a hematology/medical oncology fellowship at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Aurora, serving as the Chief Fellow in his final year. He also earned a Masters in Business Administration from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Prior to joining CTCA, Dr. Weiss served as Director of Thoracic Oncology and Associate Clinical Investigator with the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at HonorHealth (formerly Scottsdale Healthcare). He is a Clinical Associate Professor and Co-Head of the Lung Cancer Unit of the Cancer and Cell Biology Division at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, as well as Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. Dr. Weiss also served a four-year elected term as Chief Medical Officer of the CRAB Lung Cancer Research Team (formerly Clinical Trials Consortium).

Board certified in medical oncology, Dr. Weiss has completed numerous clinical trials with investigational agents, a few of which have gone on to receive FDA approval for certain cancers.

Dr. Weiss has published more than 230 peer-reviewed articles and abstracts in journals such as New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research and Journal of Thoracic Oncology. He is on the editorial board of Cancer Medicine, Integrative Cancer Science and Therapeutics, and Integrative Molecular Medicine and has served as an ad hoc reviewer for more than 10 science and medical journals. Dr. Weiss is also proud to have mentored a number of students over the years on laboratory or clinical research projects, with at least eight moving on to pursue medical degrees or Ph.D. degrees in science. He has given over 50 invited lectures both nationally and internationally, including in Mexico City, Mexico; Seoul, Korea; Rehovot, Israel; Orleans, France; Vienna, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary.

About Cancer Treatment Centers of America®

Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Inc. (CTCA) is a national network of five hospitals that specialize in the treatment of patients fighting complex cancer. CTCA offers an integrative approach to cancer treatment that combines surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy with nutritional counseling, naturopathic medicine, mind-body therapy, and spiritual support to enhance quality of life and minimize side effects during treatment. The company serves patients from all 50 states at hospitals located in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. Known for delivering the Mother Standard® of care and Patient Empowerment Medicine®, CTCA provides patients with comprehensive information about their treatment options so they can participate in their treatment decisions. For more information about CTCA, go to

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