FDA Approves OPDIVO® for Adjuvant Treatment of Malignant Melanoma

January 14th, 2018

The FDA on December 20, 2017, granted regular approval to the anti-PD1 monoclonal antibody, OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) for the adjuvant treatment of patients with melanoma with involvement of lymph nodes or in patients with metastatic disease who have undergone complete resection. The approved adjuvant therapies over the past two decades, for patients with high-risk melanoma have included high-dose INTRON® A (Interferon alfa-2b), SYLATRON® (peginterferon alfa-2b), and high-dose YERVOY® (Ipilimumab). The significant toxicities associated with these adjuvant interventions, precluded the wide spread use of adjuvant therapy in high risk melanoma.

OPDIVO® is a less toxic, better tolerated, adjuvant treatment option than YERVOY®, for patients with resected stage IIIB/C and IV melanoma, regardless of BRAF mutation. The Recurrence Free Survival rate at 18 months with OPDIVO® was 66.4% compared with 52.7% for YERVOY® and this meant a 35% reduction in the risk of recurrence or death with the OPDIVO® versus YERVOY®.  This will fulfill the unmet need  for adjuvant therapies, with improved benefit-risk ratio, for this patient group.

Hormonal Contraception Increases Breast Cancer Risk

December 28th, 2017

It is estimated that approximately 140 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception and this number accounts for approximately 13% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years. Estrogen promotes the development of breast cancer and there is evidence to suggest that use of hormonal contraception at a young age may confer a higher risk of breast cancer than initiation of use later in life.
In a recent study (N Engl J Med 2017; 377:2228-2239), it was noted that the relative risk of breast cancer among all current and recent users of hormonal contraception was 1.20 (20% higher than average). This risk increased from 1.09 (9% higher than average) with less than 1 year of use to 1.38 (38% higher than average) with more than 10 years of hormonal contraception use (P=0.002). After discontinuation of hormonal contraception, the risk of breast cancer continued to be higher among the women who had used hormonal contraceptives for 5 years or more than among women who had not used hormonal contraceptives. Women who currently or recently used the progestin-only intrauterine system also had a higher risk of breast cancer than women who had never used hormonal contraceptives, with a relative risk of 1.21 (21% higher than average). These findings unequivocally suggest that no hormonal contraceptives are free of risk.

TAGRISSO® Superior to First Generation EGFR TKIs in Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

November 27th, 2017

Approximately 10% to 15% of Caucasian patients and 35-50% of Asian patients with Adenocarcinomas, harbor activating EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) mutations and 90% of these mutations are either Exon 19 deletions or L858R point mutations in Exon 21. EGFR-Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs) such as TARCEVA® (Erlotinib), IRESSA® (Gefitinib) and GILOTRIF® (Afatinib), have demonstrated a 60% to 70% response rate as monotherapy when administered as first line treatment, in patients with metastatic NSCLC, who harbor the sensitizing EGFR mutations. However, majority of these patients experience disease progression within 9 to 14 months. This resistance to frontline EGFR TKI therapy has been attributed to acquired T790M “gatekeeper” point mutation in EGFR, identified in 50% – 60% of patients.
TAGRISSO® (Osimertinib), is a third-generation Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) TKI and in a randomized, double blind, phase III clinical trial, demonstrated superior efficacy and tolerability compared to the Standard of Care, as first-line therapy in patients with advanced EGFR mutation positive NSCLC. This benefit was seen even in those with CNS metastases at study entry. These new finding are very likely to change the treatment paradigm for NSCLC patients whose tumors harbor EGFR mutations.


Alcohol and Cancer: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology

November 17th, 2017

Alcohol consumption is an established risk factor for several malignancies, and is a potentially modifiable risk factor for cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of WHO, classified alcohol as a group 1 carcinogen. The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and US Department of Health and Human Services all recommend that men limit intake to one to two drinks per day and women to one drink per day. People who do not currently drink alcohol should not start for any reason. There is a clear association between alcohol and upper aerodigestive tract cancers (larynx, esophagus, and oral cavity/pharynx). A recent meta-analysis of cohort studies among 209,597 cancer survivors showed an 8% increase in overall mortality and a 17% increased risk for recurrence in the highest versus lowest alcohol consumers. The benefit of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular health likely has been overstated and the net effect of alcohol is harmful. Alcohol consumption should therefore not be recommended to prevent cardiovascular disease or all-cause mortality.

FDA Approves VERZENIO® for Hormone Receptor Positive, HER2-Negative Breast Cancer

November 1st, 2017

The FDA in September 2017, approved VERZENIO® (Abemaciclib) in combination with FASLODEX® (Fulvestrant) for women with Hormone Receptor positive (HR-positive), HER2-negative, advanced or metastatic breast cancer, with disease progression following endocrine therapy. In addition, VERZENIO® was approved as monotherapy for women and men with HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer, with disease progression following endocrine therapy and prior chemotherapy, in the metastatic setting. The approval of VERZENIO® in combination with FASLODEX® was based on MONARCH 2 study which showed that a combination of VERZENIO® plus FASLODEX® significantly improved Progression Free Survival and Objective Response Rates, with a tolerable safety profile, in patients with Hormone Receptor-positive and HER 2-negative metastatic breast cancer, who had progressed while receiving endocrine therapy.

FDA Approves ALIQOPA®, a PI3K Inhibitor, for Follicular Lymphoma

October 28th, 2017

The FDA in September 2017, granted accelerated approval to ALIQOPA® (Copanlisib) for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed Follicular Lymphoma, who have received at least two prior systemic therapies. Follicular Lymphoma is the most indolent form and second most common form of all Non Hodgkin Lymphomas and approximately 30% of the patients will relapse in 3 years following initial treatment. ALIQOPA® is a pan-class 1, PI3K inhibitor with inhibitory activity predominantly against PI3K-α and PI3K-δ Isoforms expressed in malignant B cells. ALIQOPA® has significant activity in patients with relapsed/refractory indolent B-cell lymphoma, and the safety was manageable, compared with other PI3K inhibitors.

FDA Approves NERLYNX® for Adjuvant Treatment of HER2 Positive Breast Cancer

September 25th, 2017

The FDA on July 17, 2017 approved NERLYNX® (Neratinib) for the extended adjuvant treatment of adult patients with early stage HER2-overexpressed/amplified breast cancer, to follow adjuvant Trastuzumab (HERCEPTIN®)-based therapy. NERLYNX® is a potent, irreversible, oral Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor, of HER1, HER2 and HER4 (pan-HER inhibitor). NERLYNX® is the first TKI approved by the FDA, shown to reduce the risk for disease recurrence, in patients with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer and demonstrated significantly improved 2-year invasive Disease Free Survival.

FDA Approves First Biosimilar for Cancer Treatment

September 20th, 2017

The FDA on Sept. 14, 2017 approved MYASI® (Bevacizumab-awwb) as a Biosimilar to AVASTIN® (Bevacizumab). MYASI® is the first Biosimilar approved in the U.S. for the treatment of cancer. A Biosimilar must show that it has no clinically meaningful differences in terms of safety and effectiveness from the already approved biological product (also known as reference product). A Biosimilar product can only be approved by the FDA if it has the same mechanism of action, route of administration, dosage form and strength as the reference product, and only for the indications and conditions of use, that have been approved for the reference product. The approval of MYASI® was based on comparisons of extensive structural and functional product characterization, animal data, human PharmacoKinetic and pharmacodynamic data, clinical immunogenicity, between MYASI® and AVASTIN® (Bevacizumab), and it was noted that MYASI® is highly similar to AVASTIN® and that there are no clinically meaningful differences between the two products.

Screening Mammography Starting at Age 40 years May Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths by 40 percent

September 12th, 2017

In the US, about 33 million screening mammograms are performed each year. Currently, the major national health care organizations in the US have different recommendations for screening mammography which has led to some confusion and emotional counterarguments. These several different recommendations include 1) Annual screening at ages 40 to 84 years. 2) Annual screening at ages 45 to 54 years and then biennially at ages 55 to 79 years. 3) Biennial screening at ages 50 to 74 years.

In a recently published study (CANCER,  August 21, 2017), it was noted  that the greatest breast cancer-specific mortality reduction was achieved with annual screening of women starting at age 40 years, saving 29,369 lives from breast cancer. This is the first study to compare the three most widely discussed recommendations for screening mammography, head to head.

First CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy Approved by the FDA for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

September 11th, 2017

The FDA on August 30, 2017, granted regular approval to KYMRIAH® (Tisagenlecleucel) for the treatment of patients up to age 25 years with B-cell precursor Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), that is refractory or in second or later relapse. KYMRIAH® is the first Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy approved by the FDA. A single infusion of KYMRIAH® was highly efficacious, in patients with relapsed and refractory ALL, and was associated with a high and durable Remission Rate. This technology may be applied to other malignancies, as new antigen targets are identified.