YERVOY® and OPDIVO® Combination Superior to YERVOY® Monotherapy in Advanced Melanoma

October 22nd, 2015

SUMMARY: The FDA on September 30, 2015 granted accelerated approval to OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) in combination with YERVOY® (Ipilimumab), for the treatment of patients with BRAF V600 wild-type, unresectable or metastatic melanoma. The American Cancer Society’s estimates that for 2015, approximately 74,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States and about 10,000 people are expected to die of the disease. The understanding of the Immune checkpoints has lead to the development of novel immunotherapies. Immune checkpoints or gate keepers are cell surface inhibitory proteins/receptors that are expressed on activated T cells. They harness the immune system and prevent uncontrolled immune reactions. Survival of cancer cells may be related to their ability to escape immune surveillance, by inhibiting T lymphocyte activation. With the recognition of Immune checkpoint proteins and their role in suppressing antitumor immunity, antibodies have been developed that target the membrane bound inhibitory Immune checkpoint proteins/receptors such as CTLA-4 (Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Antigen 4), PD-1(Programmed cell Death-1), etc. By doing so, the T cells are unleashed, resulting in T cell proliferation, activation and a therapeutic response. YERVOY® is a fully human immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody, that blocks Immune checkpoint protein/receptor CTLA-4 and has been shown to prolong Overall Survival in patients with previously treated, unresectable or metastatic melanoma. OPDIVO® is a fully human, immunoglobulin G4 monoclonal antibody that binds to the PD-1 receptor and blocks its interaction with PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby undoing PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response. OPDIVO® significantly improves Objective Response Rates, in patients with advanced melanoma. Previously published phase I studies demonstrated high Objective Response Rates, including Complete Responses, among patients with advanced melanoma, when treated with a combination of YERVOY® and OPDIVO®.

In this double-blind phase II trial, 142 treatment naïve patients with metastatic melanoma were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to receive either OPDIVO® in combination with YERVOY® (N=95) or YERVOY® plus placebo (N=47). Patients in the OPDIVO® plus YERVOY® group received OPDIVO® 1 mg/kg and YERVOY® 3 mg/kg IV every 3 weeks for four doses followed by OPDIVO® 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Patients in the YERVOY® and placebo group received YERVOY® 3 mg/kg and placebo IV every 3 weeks for four doses followed by placebo. At the time of disease progression, patients in the YERVOY® group were offered OPDIVO® 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks. Patients were stratified according to BRAF mutation status (wild type versus mutation-positive). The median age was 65 years and majority of patients were males. The primary end point was Objective Response Rate among patients with BRAF V600 wild type tumors. The authors noted that in BRAF wild type tumors, the overall Response Rate was 61% with the combination treatment versus 11% for YERVOY® alone (P<0.001). The Complete Response rate was 22% for the combination therapy vs 0% for YERVOY®. The median duration of response was not reached in either treatment groups, with an ongoing response rate of 82% in the combination group and 75% in the YERVOY® plus placebo group. The median Progression Free Survival was not reached with the combination therapy and was 4.4 months in the YERVOY® plus placebo group (HR=0.40; P<0.001). Among patients with BRAF mutation-positive tumors, the overall Response Rate was 52% for the combination therapy group and Complete Response rate was 22%, with similar efficacy compared with the BRAF wild type tumor group. The median Progression Free Survival was 8.5 months for the combination therapy group and 2.7 months for YERVOY® plus placebo group.

Grade 3 or 4 adverse events were reported in 54% of the patients who received the combination therapy as compared with 24% of the patients who received YERVOY® monotherapy and the most common grade 3 or 4 toxicities in the combination therapy group were colitis, diarrhea and elevated transaminases, which resolved with steroids. The authors concluded that a combination of YERVOY® and OPDIVO® is superior to YERVOY® monotherapy, among treatment naïve patients with metastatic melanoma, with significantly greater objective response rate, as well as Progression Free Survival. Nivolumab and Ipilimumab versus Ipilimumab in Untreated Melanoma. Postow MA, Chesney J, Pavlick AC, et al. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:2006-2017


FDA Approves LONSURF®, A Novel Oral Agent for Refractory Colorectal Cancer

October 15th, 2015

SUMMARY: The FDA on September 22, 2015 approved LONSURF® (Trifluridine/Tipiracil) for the treatment of patients with metastatic ColoRectal Cancer (CRC), who have been previously treated with Fluoropyrimidine, Oxaliplatin and Irinotecan-based chemotherapy, an anti-VEGF biological therapy and if RAS wild-type, an anti-EGFR therapy. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 133,000 new cases of ColoRectal Cancer (CRC) will be diagnosed in the United States in 2015 and close to 50,000 are expected to die of the disease. Approximately 15-25% of the patients with CRC present with metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis (synchronous metastases) and 50-60% of the patients with CRC will develop metastatic disease during the course of their illness. Patients with metastatic CRC, whose disease has progressed after treatment with standard therapies, have limited therapeutic options available, to treat their disease.

LONSURF® is a combination of two agents – a novel oral nucleoside, Trifluridine and a thymidine phosphorylase inhibitor, Tipiracil hydrochloride. This combination has a unique mechanism of action. Trifluridine, the active ingredient of LONSURF® incorporates into DNA resulting in DNA damage. Degradation of Trifluridine which occurs when taken orally is prevented by Tipiracil hydrochloride.

The RECOURSE study is a pivotal, global, phase III trial, in which 800 patients with metastatic ColoRectal Cancer, refractory to all standard therapies were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to receive either LONSURF® (N=534) or placebo (N=266). Patients received LONSURF® 35mg/m2 or matching placebo orally, twice daily after meals, on Days 1-5 and 8-12 of each 28 day cycle. Treatment was continued until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Eligible patients had metastatic ColoRectal Cancer (mCRC), previously treated with chemotherapy and biological therapy, which included Fluoropyrimidine, Oxaliplatin and Irinotecan-based chemotherapy, an anti-VEGF biological therapy and if RAS wild-type, an anti-EGFR therapy. The primary endpoint of this study was overall survival and the secondary endpoint was progression-free survival.

It was noted that LONSURF® significantly improved Overall Survival compared to placebo (7.1 months vs 5.3 months; HR=0.68; P<0.001), with a 32% reduction in the risk of death. LONSURF® also significantly improved Progression Free Survival compared to placebo (HR = 0.47; P<0.001). The most common grade 3 or more adverse events were leukopenia (21%), anemia (18%) and febrile neutropenia (4%), noted in patients receiving LONSURF®. The authors concluded that LONSURF® significantly improved Overall Survival in patients with refractory metastatic ColoRectal Cancer, providing a novel oral therapeutic option for this patient group. Randomized Trial of TAS-102 for Refractory Metastatic Colorectal Cancer. Mayer RJ, Van Cutsem E, Falcone A, et al. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:1909-1919


Preserving Fertility with ZOLADEX® in Breast Cancer

October 15th, 2015

SUMMARY: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US and about 1 in 8 women (12%) will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately, 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2015 and over 40,000 women will die of the disease. Approximately 75% of patients with breast cancer are hormone receptor positive (Estrogen Receptor/Progesterone Receptor positive) and this is a predictor of response to endocrine therapy. In premenopausal woman, the ovary is the main source of estrogen production, whereas in postmenopausal women, the primary source of estrogen is the Aromatase enzyme mediated conversion of androstenedione and testosterone to estrone and estradiol in extragonadal/peripheral tissues. Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) is a common unintended consequence of chemotherapy in premenopausal women. Besides of loss of fertility, which can influence treatment decisions in young women, ovarian failure can lead to menopausal symptoms, sexual dysfunction and loss of bone density.

POEMS (Prevention of Early Menopause Study) is a randomized phase III trial designed to evaluate whether the addition of LHRH (Luteinizing Hormone-Releasing Hormone) analog Goserelin (ZOLADEX®), which suppresses the production of estrogens, to Cyclophosphamide based chemotherapy, would reduce POF in breast cancer patients, when compared to chemotherapy alone. Premenopausal patients less than 50 years of age, with hormone receptor negative (ER/PR negative ), Stage I-IIIA breast cancer, scheduled to receive chemotherapy, were randomly assigned to receive standard Cyclophosphamide based chemotherapy with or without monthly ZOLADEX® . Patients in the ZOLADEX® group received 3.6 mg SQ starting 1 week prior to the first dose of chemotherapy.

The primary endpoint was ovarian failure at two years (defined as amenorrhea for the prior 6 months AND post-menopausal FSH level). Other endpoints included pregnancy and survival rates. The median age of the patients was 38 years and median follow up was 4.1 years. Of the 218 evaluable patients, 135 premenopausal women were evaluable for the primary end point. POF rates were 22% in the chemotherapy alone group and 8% in the ZOLADEX® group (P=0.04). When the definition of POF was more liberal to include EITHER amenorrhea or elevated FSH but not both, POF rates were 45% in the chemotherapy alone group and 20% in the ZOLADEX® group (P=0.006). Among the 218 evaluable patients, more women in the ZOLADEX® group achieved at least one pregnancy (21%) compared to 11% in the chemotherapy alone group (P=0.03). Secondary outcomes also favored the ZOLADEX® group with a Disease free Survival (DFS) rate of 78% in the chemotherapy alone group compared with 89% in the ZOLADEX® group (P=0.04) and Overall Survival (OS) rate of 82% in the chemotherapy alone group compared with 92% in the ZOLADEX® group (P=0.05).

The authors concluded that the addition of ZOLADEX® to chemotherapy improved fertility prospects with a lower incidence of Premature Ovarian Failure and more pregnancies. Further, the improved Disease Free Survival and Overall Survival are important additional perks and prevention of Premature Ovarian Failure with ZOLADEX® may be a consideration not only in premenopausal breast cancer patients but also in other malignancies such as lymphomas, when treated with similar chemotherapeutic agents. Goserelin for Ovarian Protection during Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer. Moore HC, Unger JM, Phillips K, et al. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:923-932


KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab)

October 8th, 2015

The FDA on October 2, 2015 granted accelerated approval to KEYTRUDA® for the treatment of patients with metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express Programmed Death Ligand 1 (PD-L1) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. KEYTRUDA® Injection is a product of Merck Sharp and Dohme Corporation.


OPDIVO® (Nivolumab)

October 8th, 2015

The FDA on September 30, 2015 granted accelerated approval to OPDIVO® in combination with YERVOY® (Ipilimumab), for the treatment of patients with BRAF V600 wild-type, unresectable or metastatic melanoma. OPDIVO® Injection is a product of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.


LONSURF® (Trifluridine/Tipiracil)

October 8th, 2015

The FDA on September 22, 2015 approved LONSURF® for the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, who have been previously treated with Fluoropyrimidine, Oxaliplatin and Irinotecan-based chemotherapy, an anti-VEGF biologic product, and an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody, if RAS wild-type. LONSURF® is a product of Taiho Oncology, Inc.


PROMACTA® (Eltrombopag)

October 8th, 2015

The FDA on August 24, 2015 approved PROMACTA® for the treatment of thrombocytopenia in pediatric patients 1 year and older with chronic Immune (Idiopathic) Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), who have had an insufficient response to corticosteroids, immunoglobulins, or splenectomy. PROMACTA® oral suspension is a product of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.


ADCETRIS® (Brentuximab vedotin)

October 8th, 2015

The FDA on August 17, 2015 approved ADCETRIS® for the post-autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (auto-HSCT) consolidation treatment of patients with classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) at high risk of relapse or progression. ADCETRIS® is a product of Seattle Genetics, Inc.


KYPROLIS® (Carfilzomib)

October 8th, 2015

The FDA on July 24, 2015 approved KYPROLIS® in combination with REVLIMID® (Lenalidomide) and Dexamethasone for the treatment of patients with relapsed multiple myeloma, who had received one to three prior lines of therapy. KYPROLIS® is a product of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc., an Amgen subsidiary.


ODOMZO® (Sonidegib)

October 8th, 2015

The FDA on July 24, 2015 approved ODOMZO® for the treatment of patients with locally advanced Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) that has recurred following surgery or radiation therapy, or those who are not candidates for surgery or radiation therapy. ODOMZO® capsules are a product of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation