Heads up for the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam

Posted by Judi Space on Tue,Sep 24, 2013 @ 06:00 PM

ESMO EU Cancer Congress 2013

Clinical Trial Insights

The annual European meeting offers insights into new data from ongoing clinical trials as well as a chance to discuss the implications of recently reported trial outcomes presented a few short months ago at ASCO. Pennside has reviewed the program in detail and we offer our assessment of key presentations at the meeting for drug developers and biotech.

 

Our Assessment of ESMO Key Presentations:

CRC

  • Analysis of KRAS/NRAS and BRAF mutations in FIRE-3:A randomized phase III study of FOLFIRI plus cetuximab or bevacizumab as first-line treatment for WT KRAS (exon 2) mCRC (abst#17, embargoed)
    • Data at ASCO this past June showed that there was no benefit from Vectibix for patients with NRAS mutations—it will be interesting to see if this also holds true for Erbitux in this biomarker analysis from the FIRE-3 trial.
       
  • ASPECCT: a randomized, multicenter, open-label, phase 3 study of panitumumab (pmab) vs cetuximab (cmab) for previously treated WT KRAS mCRC (abst#18, embargoed)
    • This is a head to head trial of Vectibix vs. Erbitux in the 3rd line setting—maybe one agent will come out ahead of the other, but most likely they will report similar data, possibly with some differences in safety.
       
  • Effects of regorafenib therapy on health-related quality of life in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer in the phase III CORRECT study (abst#2156)
    • TKIs have a history of poor tolerability in CRC, and Stivarga in particular was concerning because of its use in the 3/4th line palliative setting. However, this analysis appears to show that Stivarga is not detrimental to QOL, and any AEs are manageable with dose modifications.

  • Aflibercept in combination with FOLFIRI for the second-line treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer: Interim safety data from the global Aflibercept Safety and Quality-of-Life Program (ASQoP and AFEQT studies) (abst#2276)
    • There is growing concern within the CRC community that while Zaltrap’s efficacy is similar to Avastin in 2nd line CRC, the tolerability is poor. The data from this study suggests that Zaltrap’s AEs are manageable and may even be lower in the real-world setting vs. the VELOUR trial. 

NSCLC

  • A phase III study of belagenpumatucel-L therapeutic tumor cell vaccine for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). (LBA2, embargoed)
    • Given the recent vaccine trial failure by GSK in melanoma, we eagerly await the results of the STOP trial for belagenpumatucel-L (aka Lucanix).
       
  • Clinical activity, safety and biomarkers of PD-L1 blockade in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): Additional analyses from a clinical study of the engineered antibody MPDL3280A (anti-PDL1). (3408, embargoed)
    • Key question for followers of PD-1/PD-L1: is there an efficacy/safety differences between inhibiting either target? If not – then it is a race to “first to market”
       
  • Prognostic and predictive role of kras mutations in patients with advanced non small cell lung cancer treated with docetaxel or erlotinib as second line treatment in the TAILOR trial. (LBA32, embargoed)
    • Anything new to learn regarding Kras status in NSCLC? What does a positive Kras status mean for ~20%+ of patients with adenocarcinoma? Hopefully the data will shed new light on this area rather than just casting an intriguing shadow of continued confusion for those who follow NSCLC.

BrCa

  • T-DM1 for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC): Primary results from TH3RESA, a phase 3 study of T-DM1 vs. treatment of physician's choice (15, embargoed)
    • The TH3RESA trial may provide rationale for the use of Kadcyla in the 3rd line setting for patients who have progressed on Herceptin and Tykerb.  This trial could provide Roche with even more of a stronghold on the HER2+ disease state.
       
  • PARP inhibition with BMN 673 in ovarian and breast cancer patients with deleterious mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 (29, embargoed)
    • This data release will provide evidence of the potency of next generation PARPs and will, if successful provide quicker enrollment in the Phase III trial. 

PnCa

  • Additional data from the MPACT trial of Abraxane + gemcitabine vs. gemcitabine in metastatic PnCa (PET response, 2577; peripheral neuropathy, 2583; dosing, 2586)
    • Abraxane was recently approved in the US for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. These three studies will give us more information on response, side effects, and dosing.
       
  • GVAX/CRS207 (2590)
    • This is a new immunotherapy approach for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.  The Ph II study was stopped early due to positive OS results for the combination of GVAX/CRS207 vs. GVAX alone.

Melanoma

  • As it was at ASCO, Melanoma and immunotherapy will be on the hot seat again at this meeting with key presentations in the opening session: Mobilizing the Immune System to Treat Cancer (S, Topalian)
    • With hundreds of mutations extant in patients with advanced cancer, the only way to address the disease is systemically. Immunotherapies are an excellent approach, and research is bearing fruit.
       
  • Vemurafenib and MEK inhibitor, cobimetinib , in advanced BRAFV600-mutated melanoma : Dose-escalation and expansion results of a phase IB study (3703)
    • This MEK/BRAF combination is a very fast follower  of the recently approved GSK agents trametinib and dabrafenib.  Although the two GSK drugs were approved separately, data from ASCO suggests that the combo is better, and KOLs seem to agree that this will become the new standard of care. The two drugs in this study are from Roche who aims to take market share from GSK as quickly as they can. 

HCC

  • Sorafenib alone versus Sorafenib combined with Gemcitabine and Oxaliplatin (GEMOX) in the first-line treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma: Final analysis of the randomized phase II GoNext trial (a UNICANCER / FFCD / PRODIGE 10 study) (2467)
    • This is an update of the previous positive data that was presented at ASCO 2013 this past June—the regimen of Nexavar and GEMOX chemo appears to be active in this population of first line HCC.
       
  • Efficacy and safety of nintedanib vs sorafenib in Asian patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): A randomised Phase II trial (2580)
    • This study demonstrated that nintedanib has similar efficacy to Nexavar, but with improved tolerability.  As toxicity is a major issue in HCC due to poor patient condition, any agents with improved safety and at least equal efficacy to standard of care would be a welcome addition to the treatment algorithm.
       
  • Subgroup analysis of prognostic factors for overall survival in the SHELTER trial evaluating resminostat in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - the SHELTER Study Group (2601)
    • Data released earlier this month at ILCA showed the potential for a biomarker to select patients most likely to respond to resminostat, and this analysis of subpopulations from the Ph I/II SHELTER study of resminostat alone or in combination with sorafenib may help further define the ideal patient population for this developmental HDAC inhibitor. In particular, the combination of resminostat and sorafenib shows encouraging activity in second line patients who progressed on prior sorafenib.

ThyCa

  • Progressive, metastatic medullary thyroid cancer: Baseline symptoms and disease characteristics among patients enrolled in the EXAM trial (3154)
    • The results from this analysis of the EXAM trial of cabozantinib in medullary thyroid cancer suggest that, despite the common perception that this is an indolent tumor, many patients that present with radiologic findings of progressive disease actually have high disease burden and related symptoms. This justifies approval of two targeted agents in MTC (cabozantinib and vandetanib), as many patients will inevitably need an efficacious therapy once they reach the point of high disease burden.
       
  • Association between tumor BRAF and RAS mutation status and clinical outcomes in patients with radioactive iodine (RAI)-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) randomized to sorafenib or placebo: Sub-analysis of the phase III DECISION trial (3155)
    • This biomarker analysis of the DECISION explored the effect of RAS and BRAF mutations on benefit from Nexavar. While all patients, regardless of mutational status, appeared to benefit from therapy, those with RAS mutations had lowered PFS, while patients with BRAF mutations had improved PFS. Since all patients benefitted from Nexavar, it is unlikely that these biomarkers would be used to select patients for therapy, but important to know that the benefit exists regardless of mutational status.
       
  • An open-label, multi-center phase 2 study of the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib in patients with metastatic or unresectable papillary thyroid cancer positive for the BRAF V600 mutation and resistant to radioactive iodine (28, embargoed)
    • There is a lot of excitement surrounding the use of BRAF inhibitors in patients with BRAF V600 mutated thyroid tumors. This late-breaking abstract for vemurafenib will be a first look at the potential promise of these agents in RAI-refractory thyroid cancer. 

GBM

  • Bevacizumab, irinotecan and radiotherapy versus standard temozolomide and radiotherapy in newly diagnosed, MGMT-non-methylated glioblastoma patients: Updated results from the randomized multicenter GLARIUS trial (3300)
    • This is an update of the data presented at ASCO 2013 this past June. Again, it appears that Avastin/irinotecan therapy prolong PFS in patients with MGMT non-methlyated GBM, where SOC TMZ therapy is ineffective and an active regimen is needed.
       
  • Efficacy and safety of bevacizumab (Bv) plus standard combination temozolomide (T) and radiotherapy (RT) in newly diagnosed glioblastoma: Final results from AVAglio (3301)
    • An update of the AVAglio data presented at ASCO—final OS data will be presented at the meeting. The additional data coming at ESMO may help clarify the role of Avastin in GBM, where data has been inconsistent. 

STS

  • PICASSO 3: A phase 3 international, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of doxorubicin (dox) plus palifosfamide (pali) vs. dox plus placebo for patients (pts) in first-line for metastatic soft tissue sarcoma (mSTS) (3802)
    • The failure of the PICASSO trial once again shows the need for more targeted trial designs in Soft Tissue Sarcoma.  KOLs continue to press for better targeted trials in this difficult group of diseases.
       
  • Final results of sequential phase 2 studies of palbociclib
    (PD0332991) in CDK4-amplified liposarcoma  (3826)
    • The use of CDK4 amplification as a biomarker may provide palbociclib with a targeted approach in Sarcoma that will prove effective.  The Phase III trial is being planned. 

NET

  • A randomized, double-blind, placebo-Controlled study of Lanreotide Antiproliferative Response in patients with gastroenteropancreatic  NeuroEndocrine Tumors (CLARINET). (LBA3, embargoed)
    • IPSEN has announced that lanreotide has meet it’s primary endpoint in the CLARINET and ELACT trials.  The presentation on Saturday should give us insights into the robustness of the data and an expectation for ELECT at ASCO GI in January, 2014.  


Pennside Partners is a leading pharmaceutical and biotech consulting firm with over 25 years experience. They are headquartered in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Tags: Drug Developers, Cancer Drug Development, Drug Development, Breast Cancer Drug Development, Breast Cancer Oncology, ASCO, ESMO

Defining Success in Clinical Trials: Is Learning Something Enough?

Posted by Judi Space on Thu,Jul 25, 2013 @ 06:00 PM

Avastin discussed at ASCOAt last month’s ASCO conference, rapt attention was given to a presentation on the clinical trial results for the drug Avastin for patients recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), according to an article by Clinton Leaf appearing in the New York Times, which is summarized below, with our comments added. The presentation by Dr. Mark R. Gilbert, professor of neuro-oncology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, revealed earlier clinical trial results that were encouraging:  tumors shrank and the disease appeared to stall for months in two smaller single-arm studies.

No Difference

However, Dr. Gilbert’s larger double blind study of over 600 brain cancer patients found no difference in the survival rate for patients given a placebo with standard treatment vs. those given Avastin with standard treatment.  In effect, the larger, more reliable double blind study eliminated doubt as to the general effectiveness of the drug.   In other words, the trial was “a success” because it had a clear result, but we learned that the drug has no statistically significant impact on the disease as a whole. But is that enough for the trial to truly be deemed a success?

It depends on how you define success. On one hand, doctors have no additional information on how to successfully treat brain cancer as a result of the study. On the other, one possible solution has been eliminated, so doctors and pharmaceutical companies can continue their quest for an effective drug armed with the knowledge from the study.

Not so Fast

The problem is that it is not quite as cut and dried as all that. Some patients who take Avastin do significantly better than those who do not. However, the trial failed to reveal the responders that make this result possible. Despite 400 clinical trials over 16 years, no correlation has been made as to why Avastin works or fails to work in certain patients. Again, given that we don’t know, can we deem the trial a success?  

Individualized Factors May Hold the Key

Researchers are learning that individualized pathology and physiology may be significant factors in developing effective drugs for treating certain diseases.  The variability of tumors and cancers at the genetic level can be great, as can the way our genes affect our response to drugs. So the solution to some diseases may lie in identifying the drugs that best align with the individualized factors associated with a given disease.

Failure rates in clinical trials tend to increase significantly as the drug moves from phase I to phase II. In the final phase it is not unusual for trials to wholly contradict earlier trials, or for the benefits to be far less than what was first reported, according to a 2005 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Ioannidis, an authority on statistical analysis.

The Difficulty of Matching Clinical Trial Populations to Patients

Rules governing statistical trial enrollment typically produce trial populations of younger and healthier members than those likely to use the drug. In addition, trial populations typically have had far less medical treatment. These factors combine to form somewhat of a mismatch between the trial population and patients. Given that the vast majority of drugs that enter clinical testing fail to get approved (95%), finding ways to match clinical trial participants with the appropriate genetic or molecular signature may be paramount to finding drugs that work.  

That’s the approach taken by Genentech in developing Herceptin, a breast cancer drug that targets tumor cells with an abundance of the HER2 protein. Small clinical trials were designed that enrolled only those with the required molecular or genetic signature. 60% of the new drugs in development at Genentech/Roche are being developed in concert with a diagnostic test to determine patients most likely to benefit. They did not go that route when they developed Avastin and tested it in patients with GBM.

Back to the Question at Hand

So, is it enough to simply learn something from a clinical trial, even if we don’t find a solution to treat a disease? Given that there is so much riding on finding drugs that improve and extend the lives of those suffering, anything that moves us forward, even if only eliminating what was thought to be a potential solution, is a step in the right direction.


Pennside Partners is a leading pharmaceutical and biotech consulting firm with over 25 years experience. They are headquartered in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Tags: FDA, Oncology, Targeted Therapy, Cancer Drug Development, Oncology Clinical Trial Design, Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Drug Development, Breast Cancer Oncology, Glioblastoma, ASCO

Heads up for ASCO: Our List of Key Oncology Presentations

Posted by Judi Space on Tue,May 07, 2013 @ 06:00 PM

Expect the biggest data dump of the year at this annual cancer mega-conference

ASCO Oncology and Drug Development Conference Highlights May June 2013

 

 

 

For those of us taking an interest in Biotech and Drug Development the largest release of new clinical data is just around the corner at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting to be held in Chicago starting on May 31. In ASCO’s preliminary press release, the organization revealed what it thought were the key presentations to be presented at the meeting.  The actual abstracts will be posted on the ASCO website on May 15th, but the titles of the presentations are available now.

Pennside always sends a large team to ASCO to review the data and discuss its implications with experts in the field.  After reviewing the entire program, we have a hit list of what we believe are the most important studies to be presented at the meeting, especially regarding development of targeted therapies for a number of cancer indications.

Breast Cancer:

    • Phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter trial of daily everolimus plus weekly trastuzumab and vinorelbine in trastuzumab-resistant, advanced breast cancer (BOLERO-3). (Abstract #505)

One of the most important data releases this year at ASCO in Breast Cancer will be the preliminary results from the BOLERO-3 trial of Afinitor in combination with Herceptin and vinorelbine in HER2+ metastatic Breast Cancer patients.  Results were expected at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in 2012; however there had not been enough events to report at that time.  This trial should clarify whether Afinitor can be used to reverse resistance to HER2 therapies as well as it does with hormonal therapies.  If successful, this will expand the reach of Afinitor into the 2nd line of HER2+ Breast Cancer therapy, where its side effect profile will not cause the hesitance that it has in the ER+ populations.

  • A phase II trial of an oral CDK 4/6 inhibitor, PD0332991, in advanced breast cancer. (Abstract #519)

Interest remains extremely high for the anti-CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib from Pfizer.  More data from the Phase II trial will be released during a poster discussion session at ASCO.  The preliminary data seen at SABCS in 2012 was very significant and if these further results support it, the approval of this compound will dramatically affect the 1st line treatment of advanced ER+ Breast Cancer.   Since the FDA granted palbocicllib the designation of Breakthrough Therapy, the oncology community is very focused on how this will affect it’s developmental pathway. 

Colorectal Cancer:

  • Analysis of KRAS/NRAS, BRAF mutations in the phase III PRIME study of panitumumab plus FOLFOX versus FOLFOX as first-line treatment for mCRC (abst# 3511)

ASCO granted an exception to its abstract policy so that data from this analysis could be released early (17 April) because it shows that patients with certain RAS mutations beyond KRAS may have a negative outcome from treatment with Vectibix. ASCO and Amgen strongly believe oncologists need this information now in order to make informed decisions about choosing effective treatments for their patients.

  • Randomized comparison of FOLFIRI plus cetuximab versus FOLFIRI plus bevacizumab as first-line treatment of KRAS wild-type mCRC: German AIO study KRK-0306 (FIRE-3) (Abst# LBA3506)

Outcome of this trial may determine if patients truly benefit from this class of drugs in the first line setting.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC):

    • A randomized study of ganetespib, a heat shock protein 90 inhibitor, in combination with docetaxel versus docetaxel alone for second-line therapy of lung adenocarcinoma (GALAXY-1) (Abst# CRA8007)

This is Synta’s lead product for 2nd line NSCLC. Previous interim results from GALAXY-1 have been positive, which leads us to suspect that this interim analysis will continue in a positive trend.  Final data (PFS/OS) for GALAXY-1 should be ready in time for EMSO2013 in Amsterdam or WCLC2013 in Sydney. The key for ganetespib’s initial success lies in any additional toxicity in combination with docetaxel. Note that GALAXY-2 (Phase III 2nd line NSCLC with docetaxel) has recently began enrolling patients. Clinicians will clearly contrast ganetespib with nintedanib (see below).

    • Nintedanib (BIBF 1120) plus docetaxel in NSCLC patients progressing after first-line chemotherapy: LUME Lung 1, a randomized, double-blind phase III trial. (Abst# LBA8011)

This is Boehringer Ingelheim’s second foray into the NSCLC. Their lead agent, afatinib is currently under regulatory review with both the FDA and EMA. Like ganetespib above, the key issue for nintedanib is toxicity in combination with docetaxel (provided the data is positive).Nintedanib clearly has the early lead when compared to ganetespib for becoming the newest agent in 2nd line NSCLC. Positive data in  LUME Lung-1 would be the second shot in the goal for Boehringer Ingelheim and their NSCLC franchise.

Prostate Cancer (PrCa):

  • Abstract #5016: A randomized phase II study evaluating the optimal sequencing of sipuleucel-T and androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in biochemically recurrent prostate cancer (BRPC): Immune results (Abst# 5016)

With the increasing number of approved treatments available for prostate cancer the biggest challenge is how to best sequence the drugs to maximize efficacy and minimize toxicity.  Because Provenge does not alter PFS but does improve survival, there has been much discussion regarding the optimal place for its use.  This abstract may offer some guidance or at least improve understanding.

 

    • Abstract #5004: ERG rearrangements and association with clinical outcome in patients (pts) receiving abiraterone acetate (AA) (Abst#5016)

Results from the COU-AA-302 study in chemotherapy (chemo)-naïve metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC): The increasing number of targeted cancer therapies in development has necessitated the need for biomarkers to aid in determining patients most likely to respond to and benefit from each treatment.  Biomarkers will be increasingly valuable for patients and physicians in the decision making process.   ERG rearrangement in prostate cancer at the time of diagnosis, are markers for predicting subsequent tumor behavior and can help in better predicting the clinical outcome.

Kidney Cancer (RCC):

    • Record-3: Phase II randomized trial comparing sequential first-line everolimus and second-line sunitinib versus first-line sunitinib and second-line everolimus in mRCC (abst# 4504)

Trials evaluating sequencing of targeted therapies are always important in RCC, although mTOR use is uncommon in the first line setting. 

    • Clinical activity, safety, and biomarkers of MPDL3280A, an engineered PD-L1 antibody in mRCC (Abst# 4505)

This is early data, but it will be interesting to see how this agent compares to BMS’ nivolumab (anti-PD1), which is already in Ph III for RCC.

Melanoma:

    • Long-term follow-up data on the safety and efficacy of singe-agent nivolumab (an anti-PD-1 antibody) in patients with advanced melanoma (Abstract #CRA9006)

Nivolumab (BMS) , a new immunomodulator, made a big splash at last year’s ASCO and BMS has lost no time in fleshing out its development program across a number of tumor types.  Since its debut last year companies with other agents like nivolumab have sprung into action, with clinical data presentations for quite a few of them on the schedule.

    • Findings from a Phase III trial exploring the effect of the anti-PD-L1 antibody drug MPDL3280A in patients with locally advanced or metastatic solid tumors (Abstract #3000)

This study of MPDL3280A (Roche) in patients with solid tumors will be presented by Roy Herbst (Yale). It is most unusual for a Phase III trial to include patients with many different tumor types, and we are intrigued by what Roche plans to do with the data (should the study be positive).

    • BRAF inhibitor (BRAFi) dabrafenib in combination with the MEK1/2 inhibitor (MEKi) trametinib in BRAFi-naive and BRAFi-resistant patients (pts) with BRAF mutation-positive metastatic melanoma (MM). (Abst#9005)

Interest is high here for this combination of TKIs from GSK. Phase II data was very promising at last year’s ASCO, and NDA has been filed with the FDA, so any updates will be followed very closely by all stakeholders.

Glioblastoma (GBM):

    • RTOG 0825: Phase III double-blind placebo-controlled trial evaluating bevacizumab in newly diagnosed GBM (Abst# 1)

ASCO’s top abstract. Presentation of results from this trial, along with the previously-reported AVAglio trial, will help determine the benefit of adding Avastin to standard chemo and radiotherapy in newly-diagnosed GBM.

    • Bevacizumab, irinotecan, and radiotherapy versus standard temozolomide and radiotherapy in newly diagnosed, MGMT-nonmethylated GBM: First results from the randomized multicenter GLARIUS trial (Abst# LBA2000)

GBM patients with non-methlyated MGMT are resistant to treatment with the current standard of care chemotherapy (temozolomide), so if Avastin/irinotecan proves useful in this setting, it will be an important option for this group of patients who are currently without effective therapy.

Thyroid Cancer (ThyCa):

    • Sorafenib in locally advanced or metastatic patients with radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer: The Ph III DECISION trial (Abst# 4)

Another top Abstract at ASCO: Earlier this year, Bayer announced that DECISION met its primary endpoint, so it will be exciting to see just how effective Nexavar is in this difficult setting in thyroid cancer.

    • Phase II study of everolimus and sorafenib for the treatment of metastatic thyroid cancer (6024)

It will be interesting to see if the addition of Afinitor to Nexavar (which is known to be effective in thyroid cancer) will add any additional benefit.

Liver Cancer (HCC):

    • Sorafenib alone versus sorafenib combined with gemcitabine and oxaliplatin (GEMOX) in first-line treatment of advanced HCC: Final analysis of the randomized Ph II GONEXT trial (UNICANCER/FFCD PRODIGE 10 trial) (Abst# 4028)

The GONEXT trial will show if the addition of Nexavar to chemotherapy can improve outcomes in HCC, where chemotherapy alone is not very effective. HCC is a difficult disease, and many patients have difficulty with the side effects of Nexavar alone—this combination will have to overcome the potential for increased toxicity with some significant benefit in survival in order to be successful.

    • Ph II trial of Pexa-Vec (pexastimogene devacirepvec; JX-594), an oncolytic and immunotherapeutic vaccinia virus, followed by sorafenib in patients with advanced HCC (Abst# 4122)

Oncolytic viruses are a novel approach in oncology, particularly in HCC. This Ph II data will hopefully be the first indication of whether Pexa-Vec will be effective and well-tolerated.


Pennside Partners is a leading pharmaceutical and biotech consulting firm with over 25 years experience. They are headquartered in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Tags: Oncology, Cancer Drug Development, Drug Development, Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Drug Development, Breast Cancer Oncology, Kidney Cancer, Liver Cancer, Thyroid Cancer, Glioblastoma, Melanoma, Prostate Cancer, Lung Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, ASCO

Breast Cancer Drug Development - Targeting HER2 Activating Mutations

Posted by Judi Space on Thu,Jan 10, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

A Possible Development Pathway for Biotech Companies with PanHER Inhibitors?

Many Breast Cancer Patients Not Helped by Herceptin

For more than ten years oncologists have been aware of the role that Herceptin (trastuzumab, Roche/Genentech) has played in extending the lives of women with HER2 overexpressed breast cancer. Herceptin works by blocking the HER2 receptor from receiving activating stimuli from outside of the cell. In addition there is a second agent, Tykerb (lapatinib, GSK) which is able to block signaling from the tyrosine kinase domain of the receptor, inside the cell. Still, there are many patients who are not helped by these agents. These targeted therapies work when the receptor is overexpressed, but may not work when the receptors are mutated.

Breast cancer drug development - exposure to neratinibSomatic Breast Cancer Mutations Identified

At December’s San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, there was a talk given by Ron Bose from Washington University, about other perturbances of the HER2 receptor[1][2]. Over the last year, the Cancer Genome Atlas Breast Cancer has conducted genome sequencing of breast cancers. This endeavor has identified several somatic mutations that appear on the HER2 receptors in some breast cancers. A majority of the mutations were found in the kinase domain of the receptor. Most of the lesions analyzed were considered HER2 negative as they did not achieve the 3+ score in IHC testing.  

Ph II Trial of Neratinib in Breast Cancer Patients

Because the mutations cause constitutive activation of the receptor (it is always turned on), Herceptin cannot block its signaling from outside of the cell. The mutations are rare, and it is estimated that only about 5000 women in the US with breast cancer would have them. In cell line studies, Tykerb has some effect on cells with these mutations, but the agent that appears to have the most activity is neratinib (Puma), a “pan-HER” inhibitor. To that end, there will be a fairly large Ph II trial of neratinib in breast cancer patients who test negative for HER2 amplification but positive for these somatic mutations.

Breast Cancer Drug Development - Targeting Somatic Cancer Mutations

There is precedent for targeting somatic mutations in malignant lesions. Even in the same family of receptors, there are three agents with activity against EGFR: Iressa (gefitinib, AstraZeneca), Tarceva (erlotinib, Roche/Genentech) and afatinib (Boheringer Ingleheim). This has implications for the larger world of breast cancer biotech drug development targeted at the EGFR family of receptors as there are many “pan-HER” inhibitors in development that could potentially be used to treat tumors with these mutations.

Barriers to Breast Cancer Drug Development

The biggest barriers for development would be working up accurate testing systems to detect the mutations as predictive biomarkers of drug efficacy, and then getting these tests included in the battery of diagnostics used to analyze both primary breast tumors and recurrent disease.     


[1] Bose, R Activating HER2 mutations in HER2 gene amplification negative breast cancers, SABCS December 2012, S5-6


Pennside Partners is a leading pharmaceutical and biotech consulting firm with over 25 years experience. They are headquartered in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Tags: Oncology, Predictive Biomarkers, Targeted Therapy, Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Drug Development, Breast Cancer Oncology, Breast Cancer Therapy

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