Long-Term Survival Possible With MAPK Inhibition in BRAF-Mutant Melanoma

“Long-term outcomes for BRAF-mutant melanoma patients treated with BRAF and MEK inhibitors are influenced by a number of baseline factors including BRAF genotype, gender, and serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels, according to a new study.

“Treatment of V600 BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma has improved with inhibition of the MAPK pathway with BRAF inhibitors and MEK inhibitors. But ‘the degree of response and the duration of survival are highly variable,’ wrote study authors led by Alexander M. Menzies, MBBS, of the Melanoma Institute Australia in Sydney. ‘Whether clinicopathologic factors can be used to predict the clinical course of these patients is largely unknown, and there have been few studies examining this issue.’

“The study included 142 consecutive immunotherapy- and MAPK inhibitor–naive patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma. All were treated either with BRAF inhibitors (111 patients) or with a combination of dabrafenib and trametinib (31 patients), and the median follow-up was 15.7 months. Results were published online ahead of print in Cancer.”


ECOG-ACRIN Opens Trial of Treatment Sequencing in Advanced Melanoma

“A new phase III cancer treatment trial has opened for patient enrollment that examines two treatments that work in completely different ways yet have both been shown in previous clinical trials to be effective in treating patients with advanced melanoma, the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group announced today.

“Half of the patients in the trial will be randomly assigned to begin treatment with an investigational combination of two immunotherapy drugs, given together, that work by unleashing parts of the immune system to kill tumor cells. If the treatment stops working and the disease gets worse, patients will receive a second, different treatment of two other drugs, also given together, that work by blocking molecular pathways that drive tumor cell growth and survival.

“For the other half of the patients in the trial, the scenario will be reversed. They will be randomly assigned to begin treatment with the two molecularly targeted drugs, and if those drugs stop working and the disease gets worse, they will be treated with the investigational immunotherapy combination.

“Researchers in the ECOG-ACRIN Melanoma Committee are conducting trial EA6134 to find out which sequence of treatments provides the best outcome for patients.”


Pembrolizumab Increases Progression-Free Survival vs Chemotherapy in Ipilimumab-Refractory Advanced Melanoma

“In a randomized phase II KEYNOTE-002 trial reported in The Lancet Oncology, Ribas et al found that treatment with the anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab (Keytruda) prolonged progression-free survival vs investigator-choice chemotherapy in patients with advanced melanoma progressing on ipilimumab (Yervoy) and, if BRAF V600 mutant–positive, a BRAF or MEK inhibitor.

“The open-label trial included 540 patients from 12 countries with progressive disease within 24 weeks after two or more ipilimumab doses and, if BRAF V600 mutant–positive, previous treatment with a BRAF or MEK inhibitor or both. Patients were randomly assigned 1:1:1 between November 2012 and November 2013 to receive pembrolizumab 2 mg/kg (n = 180) or 10 mg/kg (n = 181) every 3 weeks or investigator-choice chemotherapy (n = 179, including 42 to paclitaxel plus carboplatin, 28 to paclitaxel, 13 to carboplatin, 45 to dacarbazine, and 43 to temozolomide)…

“The investigators concluded: ‘These findings establish pembrolizumab as a new standard of care for the treatment of ipilimumab-refractory melanoma.’ “


Opdivo Produces Similar Rates of Responses in Melanoma with and Without BRAF Mutation

“A pooled analysis of four clinical trials of nivolumab (Opdivo) in advanced melanoma, reported by Larkin et al in JAMA Oncology, suggested similar response rates in patients with BRAF V600 mutant and BRAF wild-type disease.

“The retrospective analysis included data from adult patients with unresectable stage III or stage IV melanoma from four clinical trials. Nivolumab was given at 0.1, 0.3, 1.0, 3.0, or 10.0 mg/kg every 2 weeks until disease progression, treatment discontinuation due to adverse events, withdrawal, or end of study, with 83% of patients receiving the 3 mg/kg dose. Overall, 72% of patients in the BRAF mutant group had received prior BRAF inhibitor therapy. A total of 73% of patients in the BRAF wild-type group and 86% in the mutant group had received at least two prior therapies for advanced disease.

“The investigators concluded, ‘The results of this retrospective analysis suggest that nivolumab has similar efficacy and safety outcomes in patients with wild-type or mutant BRAF, regardless of prior BRAF inhibitor or ipilimumab treatment.’ “


Biodesix Launches GeneStrat Targeted Liquid Biopsy Mutation Test For Patients With Advanced Lung Cancer

“Biodesix, Inc. today announced the launch of GeneStrat™, a targeted liquid biopsy mutation test for genotyping tumors of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The blood test results are available within 72 hours, providing physicians actionable diagnostic information prior to making treatment decisions. GeneStrat is focused exclusively on the clinically actionable EGFR, KRAS, and BRAF mutations often used to guide targeted therapy treatment decisions. GeneStrat also captures the EGFR T790M mutation, which can be used for monitoring the emergence of the primary resistance mutation in the EGFR gene. It is anticipated that two drugs targeting the resistance mutation may be available later this year. GeneStrat uses the ddPCR platform to analyze cell-free tumor DNA and is highly concordant with tissue analysis, currently considered the gold standard.

“Roughly 30% of lung cancer patients either have insufficient biopsy tissue or are not candidates for a biopsy for tumor mutation profiling. Even in cases where tissue biopsy is available, the sense of urgency to treat is great, with one recent study showing that one out of four patients begin cancer treatment before receiving mutation test results. Requiring only a blood draw, GeneStrat offers a fast, minimally invasive alternative to a high-risk tissue biopsy or re-biopsy in patients with insufficient tissue.

“In addition to providing a minimally-invasive source of mutation status, liquid biopsy can be more cost-effective than traditional tissue biopsies. The mean cost of each tissue biopsy is $14,634 across all patients. The cost of a tissue biopsy can be up to four time higher in the 19.3% of patients who have complications associated with the biopsy. GeneStrat liquid biopsy can help avoid the cost and complications of repeat tissue biopsy.”


Binimetinib And Encorafenib Combination Shows Promising Clinical Activity And Potential Differentiated Safety In BRAF-Mutant Melanoma

“Array BioPharma’s (NASDAQ: ARRY) wholly-owned MEK inhibitor, binimetinib, and BRAF inhibitor, encorafenib, were showcased at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). At the meeting, preliminary data for the combination of binimetinib and encorafenib from a Phase 1b/2 dose escalation and expansion study in patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma who are BRAF inhibitor treatment naive were shared during an oral presentation. Results from the study indicate that binimetinib and encorafenib may be safely combined and show encouraging clinical activity consistent with MEK/BRAF inhibitor expectations in patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma who are BRAF inhibitor treatment naive. In addition, a differentiated safety profile relative to other MEK/BRAF inhibitor combinations is emerging in the dose range currently being used in the Phase 3 COLUMBUS trial.  Array expects updated BRAF melanoma data from the ongoing Phase 2 combination trial (LOGIC-2) of binimetinib and encorafenib followed by the addition of a third targeted agent identified based on genetic testing at the time of progression will be submitted to a scientific conference later this year.  LOGIC-2 utilizes the same dose of binimetinib and encorafenib currently being studied in the COLUMBUS trial.”


Novartis Presents New Data at ASCO for Zykadia® and Combination of Tafinlar® and Mekinist® in Certain NSCLC Patients with Unmet Needs

“Novartis today announced new data from two Phase II studies of Zykadia® (ceritinib), as well as one Phase II study of Tafinlar® (dabrafenib) in combination with Mekinist® (trametinib) in certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Data from these studies were presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

“The results of the Zykadia studies – ASCEND-2 and ASCEND-3 – reinforce the efficacy of the medicine in patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive (ALK+) NSCLC who had received previous treatment with an ALK inhibitor and in those receiving an ALK-targeted therapy for the first time. Overall response rates (ORR) seen in these trials were 38.6% and 63.7%, respectively, based upon investigator assessment. Comparable ORR results were observed in patients with ALK+ NSCLC who entered the studies with brain metastases (33% and 58%, respectively)[1],[2].

“Separately, the study of dabrafenib in combination with trametinib in patients with metastatic BRAF V600E-mutation positive NSCLC who had failed at least one round of chemotherapy demonstrated an ORR of 63% in this population[3].”


Cobimetinib and Vemurafenib Combination Treatment Is Highly Active in BRAF+ Melanoma

“Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) today announced follow-up data from two studies of the investigational MEK inhibitor cobimetinib in combination with Zelboraf® (vemurafenib). Updated data from the pivotal coBRIM Phase III study showed the combination helped people with previously untreated BRAF V600 mutation-positive advanced melanoma live a median of one year (12.3 months) without their disease worsening or death (progression-free survival; PFS) compared to 7.2 months with Zelboraf alone (hazard ratio [HR]=0.58, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] 0.46-0.72).1

“ ‘The combination of cobimetinib and Zelboraf extended the time people lived without their disease getting worse to a year,’ said Sandra Horning, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Head of Global Product Development. ‘These results are exciting because they underscore the importance of combining medicines that target the signals, which cause about half of all melanomas to grow.’ “


AstraZeneca-Novartis Three-Drug Melanoma Treatment Found Safe

“A first-of-its-kind combination of three drugs to treat a deadly form of skin cancer can be taken safely, passing the first hurdle to regulatory approval for a potentially long-lasting treatment.

“The treatment was tested in an early-stage trial that was a collaboration between AstraZeneca Plc and Novartis AG. Researchers combined two drugs, dabrafenib and trametinib — a so-called doublet therapy that has been proven effective in targeting melanomas with mutations in the BRAF gene — with an immune system-based treatment that may prevent the disease from relapsing.

“Dabrafenib, sold as Tafinlar, and trametinib, sold as Mekinist, were developed by GlaxoSmithKline Plc and acquired by Novartis in March. The immune therapy drug, MEDI4736, is being developed by AstraZeneca.

“Melanoma is a rare but deadly form of skin cancer for which a number of drugs have been approved in recent years. Among them are BRAF inhibitors like dabrafenib, which target mutations found in about half of all melanoma patients, as well as immune therapies like Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy, which unleash the body’s own immune system. Because the immune system can be trained, those therapies may be more durable than other forms of treatment.”