War of the Checkpoint Inhibitors: Anti-PD-1 Drugs Move into First-Line Treatment in NSCLC

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy, for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients whose cancer has progressed after first-line treatment with chemotherapy. Now, the manufacturers of both drugs, pembrolizumab (made by Merck) and nivolumab (made by Bristol-Myers Squibb; BMS) are intent on expanding the indications for use of their drugs. To this end, they have conducted clinical trials testing each as a first-line treatment (i.e., in previously untreated patients), comparing them to standard chemotherapy. Continue reading…

FDA Approves Atezolizumab for Lung Cancer


“The FDA has approved atezolizumab (Tecentriq) for the treatment of patients with metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have progressed after a platinum-containing regimen and an FDA-approved targeted therapy for those patients harboring EGFR or ALK abnormalities.

“The approval is based on multiple clinical trials, the largest being the phase III OAK trial, which was presented at the 2016 ESMO Congress. In the study, atezolizumab reduced the risk of death by 26% compared with docetaxel in patients with advanced NSCLC following the failure of platinum-based chemotherapy. The median overall survival (OS) was improved by 4.2 months with the PD-L1 inhibitor versus chemotherapy. The survival benefit with atezolizumab was observed regardless of PD-L1 status or histology.”

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FDA Approves Axumin to Detect Recurrent Prostate Cancer


“The FDA today approved Axumin, an injectable radioactive diagnostic agent used to detect recurrent prostate cancer.

“The agent is indicated for PET imaging in men who have suspected prostate cancer recurrence based on elevated PSA levels following treatment.

“The FDA based its decision on results of two studies that evaluated the safety and efficacy of Axumin (Blue Earth Diagnostics). One study compared 105 Axumin scans to histopathology obtained by prostate biopsy and by biopsies of suspicious imaged lesions in men suspected of having prostate cancer recurrence. In the second study, researchers evaluated 96 Axumin scans with C11 choline scans in patients with a median PSA of 1.44 ng/mL.”

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NSCLC Drug Hits Speed Bump on Road to FDA Approval


“The FDA should wait for results of an ongoing phase III clinical trial before deciding whether to approve the EGFR inhibitor rociletinib for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), advisers recommended today.

“The Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) voted 12-1 in favor of the delay, although several committee members acknowledged that the drug demonstrated activity in two phase II trials submitted in support of the application for accelerated approval. Others, however, expressed a desire to see more compelling efficacy data from the larger, phase III trial, and some expressed uncertainty about about how to interpret the drug’s safety, specifically a 33% incidence of QT-prolongation in the single-arm phase II trials.

“Additionally, FDA staff review of the trial data ‘revealed high variability of systemic exposure to rociletinib and its major metabolites. Rociletinib demonstrated nonlinear pharmacokinetics, as systemic exposures did not increase when the dose increased from 500 mg to 1000 mg.’ ”

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FDA Approval Sought for Telotristat Etiprate for Carcinoid Syndrome


“A new drug application (NDA) has been submitted to the FDA for telotristat etiprate as a treatment for carcinoid syndrome in patients with metastatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), according to a statement from the drug’s developer, Lexicon Pharmaceuticals.

“The application was based on data from two phase III trials, both of which demonstrated significant reductions in the frequency of daily bowel movements with telotristat etiprate versus placebo. In the first study, TELESTAR, telotristat etiprate reduced daily bowel movements by up to 35%. In the second study, TELECAST, there was also a significant reduction in bowel movements (P ≤.004), although the exact data were not yet released.

“The FDA will review the NDA within 60 days of submission, at which point the agency will assign a review deadline under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. Lexicon requested a priority review for the NDA, which would provide a 6-month deadline if the designation is granted.”

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FDA Expands Use of Xalkori to Treat Rare Form of Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Xalkori (crizotinib) to treat people with advanced (metastatic) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have an ROS-1 gene alteration. Xalkori is the first and only FDA approved treatment for patients with ROS-1 positive NSCLC.

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, with an estimated 221,200 new diagnoses and 158,040 deaths in 2015, according to the National Cancer Institute.  ROS-1 gene alterations, thought to lead to abnormal cells, have been identified in various cancers, including NSCLC. ROS-1 gene alterations are present in approximately 1 percent of patients with NSCLC. The overall patient and disease characteristics of NSCLC with ROS-1 gene alterations appear similar to NSCLC with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene alterations, for which crizotinib use was previously approved. Xalkori was approved to treat certain patients with late-stage NSCLC that expresses an abnormal ALK gene in 2011.”

New Treatments for Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors

Neuroendocrine tumors of the digestive system (GI-NETs) can arise in different parts of the digestive tract. GI-NETs originating in the ileum, duodenum, and appendix are known as midgut NETs, and tumors of the stomach, colon, and rectum are non-midgut NETs. Many of these tumors are functional; that is, they produce a variety of hormonal substances that cause serious, debilitating symptoms. Continue reading…

Another Indication OK'd for Afinitor

“Everolimus (Afinitor) is now approved for treating inoperable, locally advanced or metastatic neuroendocrine tumors of gastrointestinal or lung origin, the FDA said Friday.

“The agency further specified that the tumors should be ‘progressive, well-differentiated [and] non-functional.’

“Approval was based primarily on a 302-patient trial comparing everolimus with placebo, both in combination with best supportive care. Median progression-free survival was 11 months in the active-drug arm compared with 3.9 months for placebo. However, in an interim analysis, there was no difference in overall survival, and response rates (i.e., achieving significant tumor shrinkage) were 2% with everolimus and 1% with placebo.”

FDA Expands Palbociclib Approval for Breast Cancer

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted an expanded indication for the cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitor palbociclib (Ibrance). The drug is now approved for use in combination with fulvestrant in women with hormone receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer whose disease progressed following endocrine therapy.

“Palbociclib was initially approved in February 2015 for the treatment of estrogen receptor–positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer, in women who had not yet received endocrine therapy. The new approval was granted under the FDA’s breakthrough therapy designation.

“The additional indication for palbociclib is based on results from the PALOMA-3 trial, which was stopped early in April 2015 after an interim analysis showed benefit in combination with fulvestrant when compared to fulvestrant and placebo.”