November 27, 2017 - 02:11 pm 0 Comments
About 25,000 attendees from all over the world are expected to attend the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). Attendees can choose from a cornucopia of 4500 presentations (1000 oral presentations and 3500 poster presentations) to update them on the latest in management of hematologic cancers and other hematologic diseases.
"ASH 2017 is the largest hematology meeting on the planet," said Joseph R. Mikhael, MD, chair of the ASH committee on communications, Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ. Speaking at a pre-meeting ASH webinar, Dr. Mikhael outlined key themes of the meeting related to hematologic cancers:
CAR-T Cell Therapies
ASH President Kenneth C. Anderson, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, singled out three new CAR-T cell studies (Abstracts 578, 577, and 740). Re-engineered CAR-T cells are a fertile area of investigation in both hematologic and solid tumors.
These T cells collected from a patient, re-engineered ex vivo to express an antigen, expanded, and then re-infused into the patient act as "an autologous army against the patient's leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma," he noted.
Two CD19 CAR-T products have been FDA approved: Kymriah™ (Novartis) for pediatric B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) and Yescarta™ (Kite Pharma) for relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
Abstracts 578 and 577 build on the excitement about CAR-T in treating lymphomas. Abstract 578 is a follow-up of the pivotal long-term ZUMA-1 trial of Yescarta in refractory aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). In these patients who had exhausted all other treatment options, overall response rate (ORR) was 82% and complete response (CR) rate was 54%.
"At 8 months of follow-up, 44% of patients continued to have ongoing responses. [CRS] and neurologic events occurred," said Dr. Anderson.
At the meeting, one-year follow-up on responses and toxicity will be presented. ZUMA-1 provides clues about causes of resistance to CD19 CAR-T: loss of CD19 and gain of PD-L1 expression in tumors are identified as potential resistance mechanisms.
Abstract 577 presents the primary analysis of the global multicenter phase 3 JULIET trial in adults with relapsed/refractory DLBCL treated with Kymriah. Among 81 patients with more than 3 months of follow-up, ORR was 53% and CR was 39%. Among 46 patients evaluable at 6 months, CR was 30% and partial response (PR) rate was 7%. Overall, 86% had Grade 3 or 4 adverse events, and CRS occurred in 58%.
"Both studies show that CRS can be severe with CAR-T, but these promising data show that CAR-T can be used in the real world at centers of excellence in a multicenter trial," said Dr. Anderson.
Abstract 740 describes early experience with a second-generation CAR construct targeting a different antigen, B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), to redirect T cells to myeloma cells along with a co-stimulatory molecule bb2121 referred to as bb2121 anti-BCMA CAR-T cell therapy.
In a dose-escalation, Phase 1 trial of 21 patients, ORR was 89%. Response rate was dose-dependent; patients treated at a dose of 15 x 107 had 100% CR with manageable toxicity, and these responses were ongoing. At the meeting, data on additional 5 months of follow-up will be presented.
"This study demonstrates that this new treatment has good tolerability, and it can achieve impressive responses in patients with multiple myeloma who have no other treatment options. This novel CAR-T has promising safety and activity and reduced toxicity," commented Dr. Anderson.
Dr. Anderson also reviewed results of four abstracts showing impressive results with targeted therapy (Abstracts 817, 2, 428, and 6).
Standard treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is with vorinostat, but results are disappointing. Abstract 817 describes results of the phase III MAVORIC trial of a new strategy using an anti CCR-4 monoclonal antibody, mogamulizumab. In 372 patients with adult T-cell lymphoma that failed on previous treatment, mogamulizumab more than doubled progression free survival (PFS). PFS was 3 months with vorinostat versus 8 months with mogamulizumab. This very promising therapy also improved ORR and quality of life (QOL).
"These results extend a targeted therapy to T-cell lymphoma," Dr. Anderson told listeners.
Abstract 2 described preliminary results of a first-in-man phase 1 trial of Blu-285, a highly selective inhibitor of KIT D816V, in advanced systemic mastocytosis.
In this new study, the vast majority of patients responded to Blu-285: 28 out of 30. The dose of 300 mg will be moved forward in testing.
"This is reminiscent of the Gleevec story in chronic myeloid leukemia 20 years ago. Gleevec targeted the BCL abnormality, and Blu-285 targets the KITD816V mutation that causes proliferation of malignant mast cells that cause organ dysfunction and toxicity," said Dr. Anderson.
The combination of ibrutinib plus venetoclax achieved high rates of overall response, CR, and minimal residual disease in 50 patients with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) according to results of the CLARITY trial (Abstract 428). Many of these patients had negative prognostic features, such as 17 p del. All 25 patients treated for 6 months responded, and 15/25 (60%) achieved CR.
At 6 months, 84% had no morphological evidence of CLL in the marrow, 76% had less than 1% of CLL cells in the marrow, and 28% have achieved an MRD-negative remission.
"This study is ongoing, and this combination is something to watch at ASH," said Dr. Anderson.
In the large Phase 3 ECHELON-1 study (Abstract 6), the combination of brentuximab plus doxorubicin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (A + AVD) improved outcomes for patients with previously untreated stage III or IV Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) compared with standard doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, dacarbazine (ABVD). The A + AVD regimen includes the CD30-directed antibody brentuximab instead of bleomycin used in ABVD.
ECHELON randomized 1134 patients to receive either A+AVD versus ABVD. Two-year event-free survival (EFS) was 82% with the brentuximab-containing regimen versus 77% with standard ABVD. Incorporating brentuximab led to a 23% reduction in risk of progression or death or the need for additional anti-cancer therapy compared with standard therapy.
"The idea is to avoid the pulmonary toxicity from bleomycin by incorporating brentuximab in the experimental arm," Dr. Anderson told listeners.
Pulmonary toxicity was more frequent and severe with standard ABVD than the experimental arm. Eleven of the 13 on-study deaths in the ABVD arm were associated with pulmonary toxicity, while 7 of the 9 on-study deaths in the experimental arm were associated with neutropenia.
"Brentuximab plus AVD is a new frontline option for patients with advanced HL. The experimental arm may be more cost effective as well," noted Dr. Anderson.
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is an important and increasingly frequent challenge in cancer patients. At present, all treatments for VTE are given subcutaneously. Although several new oral anticoagulants are available, there has been concern about safety of these in cancer patients and few studies have been conducted to compare available treatment options.
Two abstracts to be presented at the meeting (625 and LBA-6) show that oral anticoagulants are safe and appropriate in patients with cancer.
The SELECT-D pilot trial directly compared the oral Factor Xa inhibitor rivoroxaban versus the low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH) dalteparin in 406 cancer patients with VTE (Abstract 625).
At 6 months, the rate of recurrent VTE was 11% with dalteparin versus 4% with rivoroxaban. The rate of major bleeding was about the same with both agents, and there was no difference in survival. There were more clinically relevant non-major bleeds in the rivoroxaban arm. A larger phase 3 trial is planned to confirm the use of rivoroxaban in cancer patients.
A separate multi-national, randomized, open-label trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of the factor Xa inhibitor edoxaban versus the LMWH dalteparin in 1050 patients with acute or symptomatic VTE (LBA-6).
The study, designed as a non-inferiority trial, met its primary endpoint. The risk of recurrent VTE or major bleeding over the first 12 months was 12.8% for edoxaban versus 13.5% for dalteparin. The incidence of major bleeding events was similar in each group, and there was no difference in survival at 12 months free of recurrent VTE and major bleeding.
"This is big news. This is a better way to administer anticoagulation. The long and short of it is that these studies confirm that the newer oral anticoagulants are at least as good as the older drugs. This is important for cancer doctors and hematologists," said ASH Secretary Robert Brodsky, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, MD.
by John McCleery
Director of Content Development, OBR
September 21, 2017 - 12:09 pm 1 Comments
The NCCN Guidelines and Drug/Biologics Compendium have justifiably earned the Preferred position as the most influential resources in establishing the recommendations that serve as the basis for coverage policies by payers/MCOs. This preferred position has been critically important to patients, clinicians, provider institutions, and innovator biopharma companies. A major reason why the NCCN has assumed the mantle of authority has been the simple, direct, and elegant evaluative process and recommendations that have characterized the NCCN for years.
NCCN has recently released its Categories of Preference as a newly added feature of the NCCN Guidelines. The Categories of Preference will serve as a counterpart to the Categories of Evidence and Consensus and to the Evidence Blocks. It is herein acknowledged that the Categories of Preference have just been released and will likely evolve over time. For now and as written, the Categories of Preference likely will be a concern to patients seeking access to therapies based upon their individual characteristics, to providers making prescribing decisions, and to biopharma companies investing hundreds of millions of dollars or more to meet the needs of patients through innovation.
Briefly some concerns are described below:
Overall, the release of the Categories of Preference is not a positive for the patient, provider or biopharma communities;
The appearance and components of the Categories of Preference duplicate and seem to seek to atone for the failure of the Evidence Blocks to achieve utilization and influence across Stakeholders.
The definition of the category of “other recommended intervention” includes four negative components. As such, NCCN has turned negative with a formal negative recommendation category. Much like negative recommendations from the other four non-NCCN Compendia, one negative recommendation can trump positive recommendations from the other 4 Compendia. This one Category (“other recommended intervention”) may be used by payers to support denials or restrictive UM.
The aforementioned point cannot be taken lightly. NCCN Institutional memory should recall that originally the Category 2B was defined as “lower level evidence and non-uniform consensus”. This “non-uniform consensus” phrase resulted in CMS being silent on NCCN 2B recommendations and some plans like Anthem indicating that that payer would not cover NCCN Category 2B recommendations. Thus, negative definitions such as that under “other recommended intervention” can be and have been used by payers to deny.
The issue of how the stated institutional preference would help determine the Category of Preference is confusing. What happens if four institutions have one preference, 5 another preference, 6 yet another etc.?
The adjectives “preferred” and “optimal” are both used (interchangeably?) in the document including for the goal of “Provide guidance to users of the Guidelines on which recommendation(s) is considered optimal”. “Optimal” and “preferred” do not have the same meaning.
The NCCN answer about “how will NCCN know what each therapy will cost” is a tribute to circumlocution. The question is just not answered and this is a major issue.
The statement that a reason to develop the Categories of Preference is that “restrictive pathways are being developed in response to payer demands” seems to represent a tilt to the payer side; will the tilt be accentuated in the near future. This is concerning given the NCCN Guidelines traditionally have been the bastion of support for patients and providers.
The FAQ piece has inconsistencies and this seems to proceed from wanting to have it both ways.
The “Useful in Certain Circumstances” categories duplicates what is already in the Guidelines as the algorithms already drive to use of agents in specific subpopulations.
The interpretation of the Categories of Consensus, Evidence, and Preference along with the Evidence Blocks may lead to Babelian inconsistencies across the Guidelines and Compendium.
by Bill McGivney, PhD, President, McGivney Global Advisors
By Jay Grisolano, PhD and Stephanie Ritz, PhD
Approximately a quarter of breast cancer patients are classified as HER2-positive, according to Kantar Health’s 2016 Treatment Architecture data. 1 Effective targeted agents for the HER2 receptor, such as Herceptin (trastuzumab; Roche) and Perjeta (pertuzumab; Roche), have been developed for this particular patient segment and have greatly improved clinical outcomes for these patients. Despite these major advances, the need for improved early stage treatments still exists to keep disease from reaching an incurable stage. Currently, up to one in three early stage HER2+ patients treated with Herceptin in combination with chemotherapy eventually recur.2 In an effort to address this unmet need, Roche is conducting the Phase 3 APHINITY trial (NCT01358877) evaluating the combination of Herceptin, Perjeta, and chemotherapy in the adjuvant setting, hoping to improve upon these outcomes.
The triplet combination of Herceptin, Perjeta, and chemotherapy was initially approved in the HER2+ metastatic setting for first-line patients based on data from the Phase III CLEOPATRA trial, showing addition of Herceptin and Perjeta to chemotherapy improved median progression-free survival (PFS) and median overall survival (OS).3 In addition, the triplet has already demonstrated efficacy in early stage disease. The Phase II NEOSPHERE study (NCT00545688) compared Herceptin plus docetaxel with or without Perjeta in the neoadjuvant setting. Results reported at ASCO 2015 and published in Lancet Oncology showed a significantly improved complete response without an increase in cardiotoxicity (Herceptin / docetaxel: pCR 21.5%; Herceptin / docetaxel / Perjeta: pCR 39.3%, p=0.0063). Additionally, the risk of disease progression or recurrence was reduced by 31% and 40%.4 Based on these data, the triplet neoadjuvant regimen was granted approval in September 2013.
Now Roche is pushing to move their triplet combination into the adjuvant setting with APHINITY, results of which were presented today at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).5 APHINITY is an international, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase III trial evaluating the efficacy of Herceptin plus chemotherapy with or without Perjeta in the adjuvant setting. The study enrolled 4,805 patients of lymph-node-positive and -negative status with confirmed HER2 positivity, as defined by IHC3+ or FISH-/CISH-positive. Patients received 6 to 8 cycles of chemotherapy with Herceptin (8mg/kg) and Perjeta (840 mg)/placebo, followed by Herceptin (6 mg/kg) and Perjeta (420 mg)/placebo alone every 3 weeks for one year (52 weeks) of treatment. At the time of presentation, the primary endpoint of invasive disease-free survival (IDFS) in the overall population was 92.3% in the triplet arm versus 90.6% seen in the control arm (p=0.045) at four years; however, subgroup analysis suggested that clinical benefit for IDFS appeared to be limited to node-positive and hormone receptor-negative cohorts. The disease-free interval and recurrence-free interval was modestly improved (DFI: 93.4% v. 92.3%, p=0.033; RFI: 95.2% vs. 94.3%, p=0.043); however, the addition of Perjeta did not improve the distant recurrence-free interval. No difference was noted in median overall survival at first interim analysis (97.7% v. 97.7%, p=0.467), but only one-quarter of data points needed for final analysis had been collected.
The most common Grade 3/4 adverse events associated with the triplet arm included neutropenia in 16.3% of patients (versus 15.7% in the control arm), febrile neutropenia in 12.1% of patients (versus 11.1% in the control arm, anemia in 6.9% of patients (versus 4.7% in the control arm), and diarrhea in 9.8% of patients (versus 3.7% in the control arm), which was predominately observed during the administration of chemotherapy. Cardiac toxicity was low and similar between the two arms.
Based on these data, it will be interesting to see how physicians adopt the triplet regimen in the adjuvant setting if it gains accelerated approval. Physician attendees vocalized great concerns during today’s session regarding the financial burden of adding Perjeta for a modest 1.7% IDFS benefit, despite its favorable tolerability profile. It may be essential for Roche to find specific subsets of patients who benefit most from the triplet in order for physicians to seriously consider integrating the addition of Pejeta into their practice. Another concern is whether Perjeta retreatment of a patient who recurs with metastatic disease will still be effective. It was mentioned that trials are being initiated to evaluate retreatment with Perjeta. Given the modest efficacy of APHINITY and the current absence of data supporting retreatment with the triplet beyond progression, physicians may to choose to save Perjeta until the metastatic setting. These issues may make it difficult to compete with Puma’s HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor, neratinib, which already has a PDUFA date set for July. Data supporting Puma’s application for approval is based on the Phase III ExteNET (NCT02400476) study, which showed a 2% benefit in 2-year DFS (2-year rate: 93.9% vs. 91.6%, p=0.0009) with a relatively well-tolerated toxicity profile.6 Subgroup analysis showed that neratinib may be more effective in ER-positive patients, which could help Puma find its niche in this space should neratinib receive approval.
Nevertheless, APHINITY did meet its primary endpoint showing that addition of Perjeta to Herceptin and chemotherapy as adjuvant treatment achieved a statistically significant improvement in IDFS. These data suggest that the triplet may become an option for adjuvant treatment of HER2+ early breast cancer.
By Liseth Parra, Ph.D., and Stephanie Hawthorne, Ph.D.
A very exciting therapeutic area that has been constantly highlighted throughout ASCO this year is the enormous potential for targeting genomic instability. While genomic stability is a major force of tumor growth, it provides a vulnerable point of tumorigenesis that can be used as an actionable target in clinical oncology. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are responsible for activating DNA damage response pathways as a result of DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) and thus play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells.
Hereditary (germline) mutations in one copy of either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (gBRCA1/2) are associated with a high risk of developing primarily breast and ovarian cancer and represent one of the greatest unmet needs in gynecologic cancers. These mutations account for about 5% to 10% of all breast cancers and about 15% of all ovarian cancers1 and are particularly vulnerable to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibition. PARP proteins normally function in the repair of DSB, and it’s presumed that their inhibition leads to the breakdown of the DNA machinery involved in DSB repair that cannot take place in BRCA1/2 deficient cells, a concept referred to as synthetic lethality.
Within the past two years, three PARP inhibitors gained regulatory approval for the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer – Lynparza® (olaparib, AstraZeneca), Rubraca® (rucaparib, Clovis Oncology), and Zejula™ (niraparib, Tesaro). Additionally, four PARP inhibitors – Lynparza, talazoparib (Pfizer / Medivation), veliparib (ABT-888, AbbVie), and Zejula – are in Phase III development for locally advanced or metastatic BRCA1/2 mutated breast cancer, starting a race to see which agent will be first to market in this indication.
AstraZeneca, as an output of its 2005 acquisition of the British biotechnology company KuDOS, became the first pharmaceutical company to launch a PARP inhibitor, with Lynparza obtaining accelerated approved as a monotherapy for the treatment of gBRCA ovarian cancer patients previously treated with three or more lines of chemotherapy. Following this initial launch, AstraZeneca has an extensive life-cycle management development plan in-place for Lynparza, with its eyes on breast cancer as the next indication for approval.
In the Plenary session at the 2017 ASCO conference, the first randomized results to support its development in breast cancer were presented1,2. The Phase III OLYMPIAD trial (NCT02000622) evaluated Lynparza in comparison to “physician’s choice” chemotherapy (capecitabine, vinorelbine, eribulin) in 302 metastatic HER2- breast cancer patients with deleterious or suspected gBRCA mutations.
Patients could have had up to two prior lines of chemotherapy and must have received prior anthracycline and taxane, and hormone receptor-positive patients must have received at least one prior line of hormone therapy unless considered unsuitable; ultimately, one-third of enrolled patients were treated on-study as first-line therapy for metastatic disease, one-quarter as third-line, and the remainder as second-line.
Late breaking results for this trial presented at ASCO demonstrated for the first time positive data for a PARP inhibitor in metastatic breast cancer with a statistically-significant improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) compared to standard chemotherapy and a meaningful improvement in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in these patients.
The data showed a statistically significant PFS gain of nearly 3 months in patients treated with Lynparza (300 mg BID; n=205) versus chemotherapy (n=97) (7.0 vs 4.2 months, respectively; HR 0.58; p=0.0009). Although immature, overall survival (OS) was not statistically different between the two arms (19.3 versus 19.6 months, HR 0.90; p=0.5665). The ORR in the two arms was 60% versus 29%, respectively, with more complete responses in patients treated with Lynparza (9%) versus chemotherapy (2%). Although exploratory, data suggest similar level of benefit regardless of patient’s prior exposure to platinum or other chemotherapy, but suggest greater benefit in patients with triple-negative breast cancer (PFS HR 0.43) than in patients with hormone receptor-positive disease (PFS HR 0.82).
Fewer patients in the Lynparza arm than in the chemotherapy arm experienced Grade 3/4 adverse events (AE; 36.6% vs. 50.5%) and slightly fewer AE-related treatment discontinuations (4.9% vs. 7.7%). The most common Grade 3/4 adverse events in the Lynparza and chemotherapy arms were anemia (16% vs. 4%) and neutropenia (9% vs. 26%). As a secondary endpoint, the results showed that Lynparza led to a modest but clinically meaningful improvement in HRQOL compared to chemotherapy (estimated difference in EORTC QLQ-C30 global HRQOL score of 7.5 points, p=0.0035) and significantly longer time to deterioration of HRQOL (median not reached vs. 15.3 months; HR 0.44, p=0.0043).
These results represent the first positive Phase III trial for a PARP inhibitor in breast cancer and the discussant, Dr. Allison Kurian, had an overall positive outlook stating that these results” are practice-changing.” However, the magnitude of the benefit (3 months difference) and lack of OS benefit could raise questions by others in the field about the clinical meaningfulness of these results.
It is encouraging that the incidence of adverse events was lower, fewer treatment discontinuations were needed, and HRQOL was improved with Lynparza, but the magnitude of each of these improvements seems to run on the edge of meaningful from the a clinical perspective. When the clinical benefits run along that edge, commercial considerations have a greater likelihood of taking hold, and some physicians (and payers) may question whether the benefit with Lynparza compared to generic chemotherapy justifies the costs. Despite these concerns, Lynparza stands a good chance of gaining regulatory approval, so these debates may ultimately play out in the clinic and everyday practice.
While it may launch as a monotherapy, ultimately the greater movement forward with PARP inhibitors lies in alternative development strategies. Correlative biomarkers for PARP inhibition (beyond gBRCA1/2) may help to further identify patients that will benefit the most from Lynparza. Additionally, the double-hit approach of single-agent PARP inhibitors in gBRCA mutated disease may not be robust enough, and we could ultimately find more effective strategies with a targeted combination approach – this includes combinations with chemotherapy or radiotherapy (which can induce DSBs)or with other mechanisms of action.
The closest drug taking this approach is veliparib, which is being studied in the Phase III BROCADE 3 trial (NCT02163694), which is enrolling HER2- breast cancer patients harboring deleterious BRCA1/2 or gBRCA1/2 mutations with less than two lines of prior therapy, who will be randomized to treatment with carboplatin and paclitaxel in combination with veliparib or placebo. Other PARP inhibitors in development in breast cancer are being developed as monotherapies - talazoparib in the Phase III EMBRACA trial (NCT01945775 and Zejula in the Phase III BRAVO trial (NCT01905592). The OlympiAD results, Lynparza is now officially ahead of the competition and could emerge as a potential agent of change in gBRCA breast cancer management, creating a new standard of care for the gBRCA1/2-mutated patient population. With so many competitors hot on its heels, it will be critical for Lynparza to get a solid push off of the starting block in order to put as much distance between itself and the others in this Olympic race in the breast cancer market.