Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.


Background First-line therapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that lacks targetable mutations is platinum-based chemotherapy. Among patients with a tumor proportion score for programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) of 50% or greater, pembrolizumab has replaced cytotoxic chemotherapy as the first-line treatment of choice. The addition of pembrolizumab to chemotherapy resulted in significantly higher rates of response and longer progression-free survival than chemotherapy alone in a phase 2 trial. Methods In this double-blind, phase 3 trial, we randomly assigned (in a 2:1 ratio) 616 patients with metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without sensitizing EGFR or ALK mutations who had received no previous treatment for metastatic disease to receive pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug plus either 200 mg of pembrolizumab or placebo every 3 weeks for 4 cycles, followed by pembrolizumab or placebo for up to a total of 35 cycles plus pemetrexed maintenance therapy. Crossover to pembrolizumab monotherapy was permitted among the patients in the placebo-combination group who had verified disease progression. The primary end points were overall survival and progression-free survival, as assessed by blinded, independent central radiologic review. Results After a median follow-up of 10.5 months, the estimated rate of overall survival at 12 months was 69.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 64.1 to 73.8) in the pembrolizumab-combination group versus 49.4% (95% CI, 42.1 to 56.2) in the placebo-combination group (hazard ratio for death, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.38 to 0.64; P<0.001). Improvement in overall survival was seen across all PD-L1 categories that were evaluated. Median progression-free survival was 8.8 months (95% CI, 7.6 to 9.2) in the pembrolizumab-combination group and 4.9 months (95% CI, 4.7 to 5.5) in the placebo-combination group (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.43 to 0.64; P<0.001). Adverse events of grade 3 or higher occurred in 67.2% of the patients in the pembrolizumab-combination group and in 65.8% of those in the placebo-combination group. Conclusions In patients with previously untreated metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without EGFR or ALK mutations, the addition of pembrolizumab to standard chemotherapy of pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug resulted in significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival than chemotherapy alone. (Funded by Merck; KEYNOTE-189 number, NCT02578680 .).

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Lung cancer, Non-small cell lung carcinoma, Chemotherapy


Background Antibodies that block programmed death 1 (PD-1) protein improve survival in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) but have not been tested in resectable NSCLC, a condition in which little progress has been made during the past decade. Methods In this pilot study, we administered two preoperative doses of PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab in adults with untreated, surgically resectable early (stage I, II, or IIIA) NSCLC. Nivolumab (at a dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight) was administered intravenously every 2 weeks, with surgery planned approximately 4 weeks after the first dose. The primary end points of the study were safety and feasibility. We also evaluated the tumor pathological response, expression of programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), mutational burden, and mutation-associated, neoantigen-specific T-cell responses. Results Neoadjuvant nivolumab had an acceptable side-effect profile and was not associated with delays in surgery. Of the 21 tumors that were removed, 20 were completely resected. A major pathological response occurred in 9 of 20 resected tumors (45%). Responses occurred in both PD-L1-positive and PD-L1-negative tumors. There was a significant correlation between the pathological response and the pretreatment tumor mutational burden. The number of T-cell clones that were found in both the tumor and peripheral blood increased systemically after PD-1 blockade in eight of nine patients who were evaluated. Mutation-associated, neoantigen-specific T-cell clones from a primary tumor with a complete response on pathological assessment rapidly expanded in peripheral blood at 2 to 4 weeks after treatment; some of these clones were not detected before the administration of nivolumab. Conclusions Neoadjuvant nivolumab was associated with few side effects, did not delay surgery, and induced a major pathological response in 45% of resected tumors. The tumor mutational burden was predictive of the pathological response to PD-1 blockade. Treatment induced expansion of mutation-associated, neoantigen-specific T-cell clones in peripheral blood. (Funded by Cancer Research Institute-Stand Up 2 Cancer and others; number, NCT02259621 .).

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Lung cancer, Non-small cell lung carcinoma, Cancer staging, Tumor, Neoplasm, Adenocarcinoma


Background Nivolumab plus ipilimumab showed promising efficacy for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in a phase 1 trial, and tumor mutational burden has emerged as a potential biomarker of benefit. In this part of an open-label, multipart, phase 3 trial, we examined progression-free survival with nivolumab plus ipilimumab versus chemotherapy among patients with a high tumor mutational burden (≥10 mutations per megabase). Methods We enrolled patients with stage IV or recurrent NSCLC that was not previously treated with chemotherapy. Those with a level of tumor programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression of at least 1% were randomly assigned, in a 1:1:1 ratio, to receive nivolumab plus ipilimumab, nivolumab monotherapy, or chemotherapy; those with a tumor PD-L1 expression level of less than 1% were randomly assigned, in a 1:1:1 ratio, to receive nivolumab plus ipilimumab, nivolumab plus chemotherapy, or chemotherapy. Tumor mutational burden was determined by the FoundationOne CDx assay. Results Progression-free survival among patients with a high tumor mutational burden was significantly longer with nivolumab plus ipilimumab than with chemotherapy. The 1-year progression-free survival rate was 42.6% with nivolumab plus ipilimumab versus 13.2% with chemotherapy, and the median progression-free survival was 7.2 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.5 to 13.2) versus 5.5 months (95% CI, 4.4 to 5.8) (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.58; 97.5% CI, 0.41 to 0.81; P<0.001). The objective response rate was 45.3% with nivolumab plus ipilimumab and 26.9% with chemotherapy. The benefit of nivolumab plus ipilimumab over chemotherapy was broadly consistent within subgroups, including patients with a PD-L1 expression level of at least 1% and those with a level of less than 1%. The rate of grade 3 or 4 treatment-related adverse events was 31.2% with nivolumab plus ipilimumab and 36.1% with chemotherapy. Conclusions Progression-free survival was significantly longer with first-line nivolumab plus ipilimumab than with chemotherapy among patients with NSCLC and a high tumor mutational burden, irrespective of PD-L1 expression level. The results validate the benefit of nivolumab plus ipilimumab in NSCLC and the role of tumor mutational burden as a biomarker for patient selection. (Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ono Pharmaceutical; CheckMate 227 number, NCT02477826 .).

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Cancer, Lung cancer, Non-small cell lung carcinoma, Adenocarcinoma, Paclitaxel, Bristol-Myers Squibb


Subglacial lakes are unique environments that, despite the extreme dark and cold conditions, have been shown to host microbial life. Many subglacial lakes have been discovered beneath the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, but no spatially isolated water body has been documented as hypersaline. We use radio-echo sounding measurements to identify two subglacial lakes situated in bedrock troughs near the ice divide of Devon Ice Cap, Canadian Arctic. Modeled basal ice temperatures in the lake area are no higher than -10.5°C, suggesting that these lakes consist of hypersaline water. This implication of hypersalinity is in agreement with the surrounding geology, which indicates that the subglacial lakes are situated within an evaporite-rich sediment unit containing a bedded salt sequence, which likely act as the solute source for the brine. Our results reveal the first evidence for subglacial lakes in the Canadian Arctic and the first hypersaline subglacial lakes reported to date. We conclude that these previously unknown hypersaline subglacial lakes may represent significant and largely isolated microbial habitats, and are compelling analogs for potential ice-covered brine lakes and lenses on planetary bodies across the solar system.

Concepts: Water, Lake, Glacier, Solar System, Antarctica, Glaciology, Subglacial lake, Ice cap


Lepidopteran scales exhibit remarkably complex ultrastructures, many of which produce structural colors that are the basis for diverse communication strategies. Little is known, however, about the early evolution of lepidopteran scales and their photonic structures. We report scale architectures from Jurassic Lepidoptera from the United Kingdom, Germany, Kazakhstan, and China and from Tarachoptera (a stem group of Amphiesmenoptera) from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. The Jurassic lepidopterans exhibit a type 1 bilayer scale vestiture: an upper layer of large fused cover scales and a lower layer of small fused ground scales. This scale arrangement, plus preserved herringbone ornamentation on the cover scale surface, is almost identical to those of some extant Micropterigidae. Critically, the fossil scale ultrastructures have periodicities measuring from 140 to 2000 nm and are therefore capable of scattering visible light, providing the earliest evidence of structural colors in the insect fossil record. Optical modeling confirms that diffraction-related scattering mechanisms dominate the photonic properties of the fossil cover scales, which would have displayed broadband metallic hues as in numerous extant Micropterigidae. The fossil tarachopteran scales exhibit a unique suite of characteristics, including small size, elongate-spatulate shape, ridged ornamentation, and irregular arrangement, providing novel insight into the early evolution of lepidopteran scales. Combined, our results provide the earliest evidence for structural coloration in fossil lepidopterans and support the hypothesis that fused wing scales and the type 1 bilayer covering are groundplan features of the group. Wing scales likely had deep origins in earlier amphiesmenopteran lineages before the appearance of the Lepidoptera.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Color, Geology, Scale, Lepidoptera, Fossil, Trichoptera



Background The programmed death 1 (PD-1) inhibitor pembrolizumab has been found to prolong progression-free and overall survival among patients with advanced melanoma. We conducted a phase 3 double-blind trial to evaluate pembrolizumab as adjuvant therapy in patients with resected, high-risk stage III melanoma. Methods Patients with completely resected stage III melanoma were randomly assigned (with stratification according to cancer stage and geographic region) to receive 200 mg of pembrolizumab (514 patients) or placebo (505 patients) intravenously every 3 weeks for a total of 18 doses (approximately 1 year) or until disease recurrence or unacceptable toxic effects occurred. Recurrence-free survival in the overall intention-to-treat population and in the subgroup of patients with cancer that was positive for the PD-1 ligand (PD-L1) were the primary end points. Safety was also evaluated. Results At a median follow-up of 15 months, pembrolizumab was associated with significantly longer recurrence-free survival than placebo in the overall intention-to-treat population (1-year rate of recurrence-free survival, 75.4% [95% confidence interval {CI}, 71.3 to 78.9] vs. 61.0% [95% CI, 56.5 to 65.1]; hazard ratio for recurrence or death, 0.57; 98.4% CI, 0.43 to 0.74; P<0.001) and in the subgroup of 853 patients with PD-L1-positive tumors (1-year rate of recurrence-free survival, 77.1% [95% CI, 72.7 to 80.9] in the pembrolizumab group and 62.6% [95% CI, 57.7 to 67.0] in the placebo group; hazard ratio, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.42 to 0.69; P<0.001). Adverse events of grades 3 to 5 that were related to the trial regimen were reported in 14.7% of the patients in the pembrolizumab group and in 3.4% of patients in the placebo group. There was one treatment-related death due to myositis in the pembrolizumab group. Conclusions As adjuvant therapy for high-risk stage III melanoma, 200 mg of pembrolizumab administered every 3 weeks for up to 1 year resulted in significantly longer recurrence-free survival than placebo, with no new toxic effects identified. (Funded by Merck; number, NCT02362594 ; EudraCT number, 2014-004944-37 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Cancer, Cancer staging, Clinical research, Placebo, Group theory, Toxicity


A general northward shift in marine species distributions has been observed in the western North Atlantic Ocean, which may have significant ecological consequences. Large coastal sharks can have wide migratory distributions but show fidelity to specific nursery habitats. Here we show evidence for nursery range expansion into Pamlico Sound, North Carolina by a marine apex predator, the Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas). Previous assessments have shown little to no use of estuarine North Carolina waters as nursery habitat by Bull Sharks from 1965-2011. Juvenile sharks were rarely captured in a fishery-independent gillnet survey conducted by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) from 2003-2011, but were present every year from 2011-2016. Juvenile Bull Shark presence in the Sound was strongly related to early summer temperatures and late summer salinities, which have increased in the estuary over the 13 survey years, and further evidence for increasing water temperatures in Pamlico Sound was found in a 45-year data set for the NCDMF estuarine trawl survey. These results suggest that increasing water temperature and salinity have allowed Bull Sharks to expand their nursery habitat. This shift will have unknown, but potentially strong, impacts on both the local ecosystem and interactions with humans.

Concepts: Water, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Estuary, Amazon River, Shark, Bull shark, Pamlico Sound


Columnar joints form by cracking during cooling-induced contraction of lava, allowing hydrothermal fluid circulation. A lack of direct observations of their formation has led to ambiguity about the temperature window of jointing and its impact on fluid flow. Here we develop a novel thermo-mechanical experiment to disclose the temperature of columnar jointing in lavas. Using basalts from Eyjafjallajökull volcano (Iceland) we show that contraction during cooling induces stress build-up below the solidus temperature (980 °C), resulting in localised macroscopic failure between 890 and 840 °C. This temperature window for incipient columnar jointing is supported by modelling informed by mechanical testing and thermal expansivity measurements. We demonstrate that columnar jointing takes place well within the solid state of volcanic rocks, and is followed by a nonlinear increase in system permeability of <9 orders of magnitude during cooling. Columnar jointing may promote advective cooling in magmatic-hydrothermal environments and fluid loss during geothermal drilling and thermal stimulation.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Rock, Pumice, Volcano, Magma, Basalt, Lava, Volcanology


Planetary formation models show that terrestrial planets are formed by the accretion of tens of Moon- to Mars-sized planetary embryos through energetic giant impacts. However, relics of these large proto-planets are yet to be found. Ureilites are one of the main families of achondritic meteorites and their parent body is believed to have been catastrophically disrupted by an impact during the first 10 million years of the solar system. Here we studied a section of the Almahata Sitta ureilite using transmission electron microscopy, where large diamonds were formed at high pressure inside the parent body. We discovered chromite, phosphate, and (Fe,Ni)-sulfide inclusions embedded in diamond. The composition and morphology of the inclusions can only be explained if the formation pressure was higher than 20 GPa. Such pressures suggest that the ureilite parent body was a Mercury- to Mars-sized planetary embryo.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Solar System, Planet, Mars, Dwarf planet, Mercury, Venus