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.’ “


Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Melanoma: New Directions


The drugs pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and 2015, respectively. These two competing blockbuster drugs are already changing the outlook in metastatic melanoma, previously considered to be a fatal disease. Known as ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors,’ they work by releasing ‘brakes’ on a patient’s own immune system, freeing it to attack tumors. In the wake of their success, researchers are now taking immune checkpoint inhibition in new directions. Continue reading…


Drugs That Work in Melanomas with BRAF Mutation Also Work in Lung Cancers with Same Mutation

“A subset of lung cancer patients can derive important clinical benefits from drugs that are more commonly used to treat melanoma, the authors of a new academic clinical trial in Europe have reported at the European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Dr. Oliver Gautschi, a medical oncologist from Lucern Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland, presented the results of the retrospective EURAF cohort study, which included lung cancer patients whose tumours carried specific mutations in the BRAF gene. The study was conducted by a network of European oncologists, without company involvement.

“BRAF mutations are commonly seen in melanoma patients, and are found in about 2% of lung adenocarcinomas, Gautschi explains. Several inhibitors of the B-Raf protein, including vemurafenib and dabrafenib, have been developed for use in melanoma patients, however there is currently no approved drug for BRAF-mutant lung cancer.

“As a result, experience with B-Raf inhibitors in lung cancer remains limited. ‘In the current study, we wanted to find out how many patients in Europe received B-Raf inhibitors outside of a clinical trial, and what their outcomes were,’ Gautschi says.

“The EURAF study gathered information on 35 lung cancer patients who had been identified as carrying BRAF mutations, who were treated with B-Raf inhibitors between 2012 and 2014.”


Advanced Melanoma Therapy Should Continue beyond Disease Progression

“Continued use of vemurafenib, even after disease progression, can improve survival outcomes for patients with BRAF V600-mutated advanced melanoma.

“More than half of diagnosed melanomas harbor BRAF V600 mutations, and the introduction of targeted agents such as vemurafenib (Zelboraf, Hoffmann-La Roche) and dabrafenib (Tafinlar, GlaxoSmithKline) triggered a paradigm shift in the treatment of BRAF-mutated melanoma.

“However, standard treatment practice is to discontinue use of these targeted agents upon disease progression, not unlike classic regimens such as cytotoxic chemotherapy.

“Because BRAF-mutated melanoma progresses rapidly after treatment, John Haanen, PhD, of the division of immunology at Netherlands Cancer Institute, and colleagues conducted a single-institution retrospective study to determine whether continued use of vemurafenib after disease progression could extend OS in patients with BRAF V600-mutated advanced melanoma.


Roche Gets FDA Priority Review for Cancer Treatment

“Roche Holding AG said Thursday one of its skin cancer treatments had been granted a priority review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, cutting the time the drug might take to become available to patients.

“Basel-based Roche said the FDA would make an accelerated decision on its cobimetinib drug when used with another medication, Zelboraf, to treat a serious form of skin cancer known as BRAF V600 mutation-positive melanoma. The drug is being developed by Genentech, part of the Roche Group, and Exelixis, Inc. which is a biopharmaceutical company.

“In a late stage trial of the drug, cobimetinib raised the median length of time patients experienced no worsening of their disease to 9.9 months when used with Zelboraf, up from 6.2 months for Zelboraf alone, Roche said.

“The priority review cuts the FDA decision time to six months from the standard 10 months.”


Patients with Metastatic Melanoma Do Better with Immunotherapy Treatment before Zelboraf

The gist: In a clinical trial, patients with stage IV metastatic melanoma had better responses to treatment with vemurafenib (Zelboraf) if they received immunotherapy drugs beforehand than if they received chemotherapy or “kinase inhibitor” drugs beforehand.

“Prior treatment appeared to considerably affect how patients with stage IV metastatic melanoma responded to vemurafenib therapy, according to study results.

“Those who had undergone prior treatment with immunotherapy demonstrated better outcomes with vemurafenib (Zelboraf, Hoffmann-La Roche) than those who underwent prior treatment with chemotherapy or kinase inhibitors, results showed…

“ ‘Our data demonstrate that the type of pretreatment strongly influences the outcome of vemurafenib therapy, with a precedent immunotherapy showing a positive, and a prior chemotherapy and kinase inhibitors showing a negative impact on survival, respectively,’ Ugurel and colleagues wrote. ‘Moreover, we show that the patient’s overall performance status, serum LDH, age and gender independently impact vemurafenib therapy outcome. These findings should be taken into account for future design of therapy sequencing in BRAF V600 mutation-positive melanoma patients.’ ”


New Drug Combo Might Soon Be an Option for People with Advanced Melanoma with BRAF V600 Mutation

The gist: A combination of the drugs cobimetinib and vemurafenib (aka Zelboraf) might soon become a new treatment option for U.S. patients with advanced melanoma whose tumors have a V600 mutation in the BRAF gene. The drug company Genentech submitted a New Drug Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking for FDA approval of the combo. In a clinical trial, Genentech researchers found that patients who take cobimetinib along with vemurafenib do better than patients who take vemurafenib alone. Both drugs are targeted therapies.

“Genentech, a member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), today announced the company has submitted a New Drug Application (NDA) for cobimetinib to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment, in combination with Zelboraf® (vemurafenib), for people with BRAF V600 mutation-positive advanced melanoma. The submission is based on results of the coBRIM Phase III study, which showed people who received the MEK inhibitor cobimetinib plus Zelboraf lived significantly longer without their disease worsening or death (progression-free survival; PFS) compared to Zelboraf alone.

” ‘In the past several years we have made significant progress in treating advanced melanoma, but it remains a serious and difficult to treat cancer that affects more people each year,’ said Sandra Horning, M.D., chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. ‘We look forward to working with the FDA as they review the NDA and hope the combination of cobimetinib and Zelboraf will soon become a new option for people with BRAF mutation-positive advanced melanoma.’

“In the coBRIM study, cobimetinib and Zelboraf reduced the risk of disease worsening or death by half (hazard ratio [HR]=0.51, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] 0.39-0.68; p<0.0001), with a median PFS of 9.9 months for cobimetinib plus Zelboraf compared to 6.2 months with Zelboraf alone. The safety profile was consistent with a previous study of the combination. The most common Grade 3 or higher adverse events in the combination arm included liver lab abnormalities, elevated creatine phosphokinase (CPK, an enzyme released by muscles) and diarrhea. The most common adverse events seen in the combination arm included diarrhea, nausea, rash, photosensitivity and lab abnormalities. The most common Grade 3 or higher adverse events in the combination arm included liver lab abnormalities, elevated creatine phosphokinase (CPK, an enzyme released by muscles) and diarrhea.”


Exelixis Announces Positive Preliminary Data From an Investigator-Sponsored Phase 1 Trial of XL888 and Vemurafenib

The gist: A drug called XL888 has shown promise for people with unresectable stage III/IV BRAF V600 mutation-positive melanoma. It was tested in a clinical trial with volunteer patients. It is hoped that XL888 could help prevent resistance to the drug vemurafenib (aka Zelboraf). In the trial, a combination of XL888 and vemurafenib was safely given to patients. The patients showed good response to the treatment.

“Exelixis, Inc. (EXEL) today announced preliminary results from a phase 1 investigator-sponsored trial (IST) evaluating the safety and activity of XL888, an Exelixis-discovered small molecule oral inhibitor of Heat Shock Protein 90 (HSP90), in combination with vemurafenib in patients with unresectable stage III/IV BRAF V600 mutation-positive melanoma. Safety and efficacy results support the further investigation of 90 mg of XL888 twice weekly (BIW) and vemurafenib 960 mg twice daily (BID) in additional studies that would include a third agent.

“The trial results were presented today by Keiran Smalley, Ph.D., an investigator on the trial and an associate professor at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida, in a late-breaking oral presentation session at the Society for Melanoma Research 2014 International Congress, which is taking place November 13-16, 2014, in Zurich, Switzerland. Based on these results, as well as findings from coBRIM, the phase 3 pivotal trial of cobimetinib, an Exelixis-discovered MEK inhibitor, and vemurafenib in previously untreated metastatic melanoma patients with a BRAF V600 mutation, the Moffitt Center plans to initiate a phase 1b IST of the triple combination of vemurafenib, cobimetinib, and XL888 in a similar patient population.

“ ‘The BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib is active in BRAF-mutated malignant melanoma, but development of resistance is common. Preclinical studies led by Keiran Smalley, Ph.D. suggested that most BRAF inhibitor resistance mechanisms involve proteins that are clients of HSP90, and the preclinical evaluation of XL888 showed that it is highly active in vemurafenib-resistant melanoma models,’ said Jeffrey Weber, MD, Ph.D., director of the Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center at the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, FL. ‘The current phase 1 data show that both drugs can be given together, and compelling initial response results suggest potential cooperative activity.’ “


Immune System-Activating Drugs in Combination Treatments May Be Next Big Thing for Melanoma


Among solid tumors, the curative potential of immunotherapies has been explored most in melanoma. One reason for this is that melanoma tumors often contain so-called immune infiltrates—patches of T cells, the killer cells of the immune system. It seems that these fighter cells arrive at the ‘battlefield’ to target tumor cells for killing, but instead become ‘frozen,’ unable to attack.  How to activate the tumor-killing potential of T cells has been an area of intense and fruitful research, leading to the development of several immunotherapy drugs. Continue reading…