Objective To determine the availability of data on overall survival and quality of life benefits of cancer drugs approved in Europe.Design Retrospective cohort study.Setting Publicly accessible regulatory and scientific reports on cancer approvals by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) from 2009 to 2013.Main outcome measures Pivotal and postmarketing trials of cancer drugs according to their design features (randomisation, crossover, blinding), comparators, and endpoints. Availability and magnitude of benefit on overall survival or quality of life determined at time of approval and after market entry. Validated European Society for Medical Oncology Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale (ESMO-MCBS) used to assess the clinical value of the reported gains in published studies of cancer drugs.Results From 2009 to 2013, the EMA approved the use of 48 cancer drugs for 68 indications. Of these, eight indications (12%) were approved on the basis of a single arm study. At the time of market approval, there was significant prolongation of survival in 24 of the 68 (35%). The magnitude of the benefit on overall survival ranged from 1.0 to 5.8 months (median 2.7 months). At the time of market approval, there was an improvement in quality of life in seven of 68 indications (10%). Out of 44 indications for which there was no evidence of a survival gain at the time of market authorisation, in the subsequent postmarketing period there was evidence for extension of life in three (7%) and reported benefit on quality of life in five (11%). Of the 68 cancer indications with EMA approval, and with a median of 5.4 years' follow-up (minimum 3.3 years, maximum 8.1 years), only 35 (51%) had shown a significant improvement in survival or quality of life, while 33 (49%) remained uncertain. Of 23 indications associated with a survival benefit that could be scored with the ESMO-MCBS tool, the benefit was judged to be clinically meaningful in less than half (11/23, 48%).Conclusions This systematic evaluation of oncology approvals by the EMA in 2009-13 shows that most drugs entered the market without evidence of benefit on survival or quality of life. At a minimum of 3.3 years after market entry, there was still no conclusive evidence that these drugs either extended or improved life for most cancer indications. When there were survival gains over existing treatment options or placebo, they were often marginal.
Background First-line therapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that lacks targetable mutations is platinum-based chemotherapy. Among patients with a tumor proportion score for programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) of 50% or greater, pembrolizumab has replaced cytotoxic chemotherapy as the first-line treatment of choice. The addition of pembrolizumab to chemotherapy resulted in significantly higher rates of response and longer progression-free survival than chemotherapy alone in a phase 2 trial. Methods In this double-blind, phase 3 trial, we randomly assigned (in a 2:1 ratio) 616 patients with metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without sensitizing EGFR or ALK mutations who had received no previous treatment for metastatic disease to receive pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug plus either 200 mg of pembrolizumab or placebo every 3 weeks for 4 cycles, followed by pembrolizumab or placebo for up to a total of 35 cycles plus pemetrexed maintenance therapy. Crossover to pembrolizumab monotherapy was permitted among the patients in the placebo-combination group who had verified disease progression. The primary end points were overall survival and progression-free survival, as assessed by blinded, independent central radiologic review. Results After a median follow-up of 10.5 months, the estimated rate of overall survival at 12 months was 69.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 64.1 to 73.8) in the pembrolizumab-combination group versus 49.4% (95% CI, 42.1 to 56.2) in the placebo-combination group (hazard ratio for death, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.38 to 0.64; P<0.001). Improvement in overall survival was seen across all PD-L1 categories that were evaluated. Median progression-free survival was 8.8 months (95% CI, 7.6 to 9.2) in the pembrolizumab-combination group and 4.9 months (95% CI, 4.7 to 5.5) in the placebo-combination group (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.43 to 0.64; P<0.001). Adverse events of grade 3 or higher occurred in 67.2% of the patients in the pembrolizumab-combination group and in 65.8% of those in the placebo-combination group. Conclusions In patients with previously untreated metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without EGFR or ALK mutations, the addition of pembrolizumab to standard chemotherapy of pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug resulted in significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival than chemotherapy alone. (Funded by Merck; KEYNOTE-189 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02578680 .).
Background Patients with recurrent or metastatic squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck after platinum chemotherapy have a very poor prognosis and limited therapeutic options. Nivolumab, an anti-programmed death 1 (PD-1) monoclonal antibody, was assessed as treatment for this condition. Methods In this randomized, open-label, phase 3 trial, we assigned, in a 2:1 ratio, 361 patients with recurrent squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck whose disease had progressed within 6 months after platinum-based chemotherapy to receive nivolumab (at a dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight) every 2 weeks or standard, single-agent systemic therapy (methotrexate, docetaxel, or cetuximab). The primary end point was overall survival. Additional end points included progression-free survival, rate of objective response, safety, and patient-reported quality of life. Results The median overall survival was 7.5 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.5 to 9.1) in the nivolumab group versus 5.1 months (95% CI, 4.0 to 6.0) in the group that received standard therapy. Overall survival was significantly longer with nivolumab than with standard therapy (hazard ratio for death, 0.70; 97.73% CI, 0.51 to 0.96; P=0.01), and the estimates of the 1-year survival rate were approximately 19 percentage points higher with nivolumab than with standard therapy (36.0% vs. 16.6%). The median progression-free survival was 2.0 months (95% CI, 1.9 to 2.1) with nivolumab versus 2.3 months (95% CI, 1.9 to 3.1) with standard therapy (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.70 to 1.13; P=0.32). The rate of progression-free survival at 6 months was 19.7% with nivolumab versus 9.9% with standard therapy. The response rate was 13.3% in the nivolumab group versus 5.8% in the standard-therapy group. Treatment-related adverse events of grade 3 or 4 occurred in 13.1% of the patients in the nivolumab group versus 35.1% of those in the standard-therapy group. Physical, role, and social functioning was stable in the nivolumab group, whereas it was meaningfully worse in the standard-therapy group. Conclusions Among patients with platinum-refractory, recurrent squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck, treatment with nivolumab resulted in longer overall survival than treatment with standard, single-agent therapy. (Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb; CheckMate 141 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02105636 .).
Background Prior studies with the use of a prospective-retrospective design including archival tumor samples have shown that gene-expression assays provide clinically useful prognostic information. However, a prospectively conducted study in a uniformly treated population provides the highest level of evidence supporting the clinical validity and usefulness of a biomarker. Methods We performed a prospective trial involving women with hormone-receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2 (HER2)-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer with tumors of 1.1 to 5.0 cm in the greatest dimension (or 0.6 to 1.0 cm in the greatest dimension and intermediate or high tumor grade) who met established guidelines for the consideration of adjuvant chemotherapy on the basis of clinicopathologic features. A reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction assay of 21 genes was performed on the paraffin-embedded tumor tissue, and the results were used to calculate a score indicating the risk of breast-cancer recurrence; patients were assigned to receive endocrine therapy without chemotherapy if they had a recurrence score of 0 to 10, indicating a very low risk of recurrence (on a scale of 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating a greater risk of recurrence). Results Of the 10,253 eligible women enrolled, 1626 women (15.9%) who had a recurrence score of 0 to 10 were assigned to receive endocrine therapy alone without chemotherapy. At 5 years, in this patient population, the rate of invasive disease-free survival was 93.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 92.4 to 94.9), the rate of freedom from recurrence of breast cancer at a distant site was 99.3% (95% CI, 98.7 to 99.6), the rate of freedom from recurrence of breast cancer at a distant or local-regional site was 98.7% (95% CI, 97.9 to 99.2), and the rate of overall survival was 98.0% (95% CI, 97.1 to 98.6). Conclusions Among patients with hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer who met established guidelines for the recommendation of adjuvant chemotherapy on the basis of clinicopathologic features, those with tumors that had a favorable gene-expression profile had very low rates of recurrence at 5 years with endocrine therapy alone. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00310180 .).
Background Most patients with locally advanced, unresectable, non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have disease progression despite definitive chemoradiotherapy (chemotherapy plus concurrent radiation therapy). This phase 3 study compared the anti-programmed death ligand 1 antibody durvalumab as consolidation therapy with placebo in patients with stage III NSCLC who did not have disease progression after two or more cycles of platinum-based chemoradiotherapy. Methods We randomly assigned patients, in a 2:1 ratio, to receive durvalumab (at a dose of 10 mg per kilogram of body weight intravenously) or placebo every 2 weeks for up to 12 months. The study drug was administered 1 to 42 days after the patients had received chemoradiotherapy. The coprimary end points were progression-free survival (as assessed by means of blinded independent central review) and overall survival (unplanned for the interim analysis). Secondary end points included 12-month and 18-month progression-free survival rates, the objective response rate, the duration of response, the time to death or distant metastasis, and safety. Results Of 713 patients who underwent randomization, 709 received consolidation therapy (473 received durvalumab and 236 received placebo). The median progression-free survival from randomization was 16.8 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 13.0 to 18.1) with durvalumab versus 5.6 months (95% CI, 4.6 to 7.8) with placebo (stratified hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.42 to 0.65; P<0.001); the 12-month progression-free survival rate was 55.9% versus 35.3%, and the 18-month progression-free survival rate was 44.2% versus 27.0%. The response rate was higher with durvalumab than with placebo (28.4% vs. 16.0%; P<0.001), and the median duration of response was longer (72.8% vs. 46.8% of the patients had an ongoing response at 18 months). The median time to death or distant metastasis was longer with durvalumab than with placebo (23.2 months vs. 14.6 months; P<0.001). Grade 3 or 4 adverse events occurred in 29.9% of the patients who received durvalumab and 26.1% of those who received placebo; the most common adverse event of grade 3 or 4 was pneumonia (4.4% and 3.8%, respectively). A total of 15.4% of patients in the durvalumab group and 9.8% of those in the placebo group discontinued the study drug because of adverse events. Conclusions Progression-free survival was significantly longer with durvalumab than with placebo. The secondary end points also favored durvalumab, and safety was similar between the groups. (Funded by AstraZeneca; PACIFIC ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02125461 .).
The vast majority of all agents used to directly kill cancer cells (ionizing radiation, most chemotherapeutic agents and some targeted therapies) work through either directly or indirectly generating reactive oxygen species that block key steps in the cell cycle. As mesenchymal cancers evolve from their epithelial cell progenitors, they almost inevitably possess much-heightened amounts of antioxidants that effectively block otherwise highly effective oxidant therapies. Also key to better understanding is why and how the anti-diabetic drug metformin (the world’s most prescribed pharmaceutical product) preferentially kills oxidant-deficient mesenchymal p53(- -)cells. A much faster timetable should be adopted towards developing more new drugs effective against p53(- -) cancers.
Background The 70-gene signature test (MammaPrint) has been shown to improve prediction of clinical outcome in women with early-stage breast cancer. We sought to provide prospective evidence of the clinical utility of the addition of the 70-gene signature to standard clinical-pathological criteria in selecting patients for adjuvant chemotherapy. Methods In this randomized, phase 3 study, we enrolled 6693 women with early-stage breast cancer and determined their genomic risk (using the 70-gene signature) and their clinical risk (using a modified version of Adjuvant! Online). Women at low clinical and genomic risk did not receive chemotherapy, whereas those at high clinical and genomic risk did receive such therapy. In patients with discordant risk results, either the genomic risk or the clinical risk was used to determine the use of chemotherapy. The primary goal was to assess whether, among patients with high-risk clinical features and a low-risk gene-expression profile who did not receive chemotherapy, the lower boundary of the 95% confidence interval for the rate of 5-year survival without distant metastasis would be 92% (i.e., the noninferiority boundary) or higher. Results A total of 1550 patients (23.2%) were deemed to be at high clinical risk and low genomic risk. At 5 years, the rate of survival without distant metastasis in this group was 94.7% (95% confidence interval, 92.5 to 96.2) among those not receiving chemotherapy. The absolute difference in this survival rate between these patients and those who received chemotherapy was 1.5 percentage points, with the rate being lower without chemotherapy. Similar rates of survival without distant metastasis were reported in the subgroup of patients who had estrogen-receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative, and either node-negative or node-positive disease. Conclusions Among women with early-stage breast cancer who were at high clinical risk and low genomic risk for recurrence, the receipt of no chemotherapy on the basis of the 70-gene signature led to a 5-year rate of survival without distant metastasis that was 1.5 percentage points lower than the rate with chemotherapy. Given these findings, approximately 46% of women with breast cancer who are at high clinical risk might not require chemotherapy. (Funded by the European Commission Sixth Framework Program and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00433589 ; EudraCT number, 2005-002625-31 .).
Background In a phase 1-2 trial of albumin-bound paclitaxel (nab-paclitaxel) plus gemcitabine, substantial clinical activity was noted in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. We conducted a phase 3 study of the efficacy and safety of the combination versus gemcitabine monotherapy in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Methods We randomly assigned patients with a Karnofsky performance-status score of 70 or more (on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating better performance status) to nab-paclitaxel (125 mg per square meter of body-surface area) followed by gemcitabine (1000 mg per square meter) on days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks or gemcitabine monotherapy (1000 mg per square meter) weekly for 7 of 8 weeks (cycle 1) and then on days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks (cycle 2 and subsequent cycles). Patients received the study treatment until disease progression. The primary end point was overall survival; secondary end points were progression-free survival and overall response rate. Results A total of 861 patients were randomly assigned to nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine (431 patients) or gemcitabine (430). The median overall survival was 8.5 months in the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group as compared with 6.7 months in the gemcitabine group (hazard ratio for death, 0.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.62 to 0.83; P<0.001). The survival rate was 35% in the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group versus 22% in the gemcitabine group at 1 year, and 9% versus 4% at 2 years. The median progression-free survival was 5.5 months in the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group, as compared with 3.7 months in the gemcitabine group (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.58 to 0.82; P<0.001); the response rate according to independent review was 23% versus 7% in the two groups (P<0.001). The most common adverse events of grade 3 or higher were neutropenia (38% in the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group vs. 27% in the gemcitabine group), fatigue (17% vs. 7%), and neuropathy (17% vs. 1%). Febrile neutropenia occurred in 3% versus 1% of the patients in the two groups. In the nab-paclitaxel-gemcitabine group, neuropathy of grade 3 or higher improved to grade 1 or lower in a median of 29 days. Conclusions In patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma, nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine significantly improved overall survival, progression-free survival, and response rate, but rates of peripheral neuropathy and myelosuppression were increased. (Funded by Celgene; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00844649 .).
Polybia-MP1 (MP1) is a bioactive host-defense peptide with known anticancer properties. Its activity is attributed to excess serine (phosphatidylserine (PS)) on the outer leaflet of cancer cells. Recently, higher quantities of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) were also found at these cells' surface. We investigate the interaction of MP1 with model membranes in the presence and absence of POPS (PS) and DOPE (PE) to understand the role of lipid composition in MP1’s anticancer characteristics. Indeed we find that PS lipids significantly enhance the bound concentration of peptide on the membrane by a factor of 7-8. However, through a combination of membrane permeability assays and imaging techniques we find that PE significantly increases the susceptibility of the membrane to disruption by these peptides and causes an order-of-magnitude increase in membrane permeability by facilitating the formation of larger transmembrane pores. Significantly, atomic-force microscopy imaging reveals differences in the pore formation mechanism with and without the presence of PE. Therefore, PS and PE lipids synergistically combine to enhance membrane poration by MP1, implying that the combined enrichment of both these lipids in the outer leaflet of cancer cells is highly significant for MP1’s anticancer action. These mechanistic insights could aid development of novel chemotherapeutics that target pathological changes in the lipid composition of cancerous cells.
Background Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) primarily affects older persons who often have coexisting conditions in addition to disease-related immunosuppression and myelosuppression. We conducted an international, open-label, randomized phase 3 trial to compare two oral agents, ibrutinib and chlorambucil, in previously untreated older patients with CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma. Methods We randomly assigned 269 previously untreated patients who were 65 years of age or older and had CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma to receive ibrutinib or chlorambucil. The primary end point was progression-free survival as assessed by an independent review committee. Results The median age of the patients was 73 years. During a median follow-up period of 18.4 months, ibrutinib resulted in significantly longer progression-free survival than did chlorambucil (median, not reached vs. 18.9 months), with a risk of progression or death that was 84% lower with ibrutinib than that with chlorambucil (hazard ratio, 0.16; P<0.001). Ibrutinib significantly prolonged overall survival; the estimated survival rate at 24 months was 98% with ibrutinib versus 85% with chlorambucil, with a relative risk of death that was 84% lower in the ibrutinib group than in the chlorambucil group (hazard ratio, 0.16; P=0.001). The overall response rate was higher with ibrutinib than with chlorambucil (86% vs. 35%, P<0.001). The rates of sustained increases from baseline values in the hemoglobin and platelet levels were higher with ibrutinib. Adverse events of any grade that occurred in at least 20% of the patients receiving ibrutinib included diarrhea, fatigue, cough, and nausea; adverse events occurring in at least 20% of those receiving chlorambucil included nausea, fatigue, neutropenia, anemia, and vomiting. In the ibrutinib group, four patients had a grade 3 hemorrhage and one had a grade 4 hemorrhage. A total of 87% of the patients in the ibrutinib group are continuing to take ibrutinib. Conclusions Ibrutinib was superior to chlorambucil in previously untreated patients with CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma, as assessed by progression-free survival, overall survival, response rate, and improvement in hematologic variables. (Funded by Pharmacyclics and others; RESONATE-2 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01722487 .).