KENILWORTH, N.J. & WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Eisai Inc. today announced new interim data investigating Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), in combination with Eisai’s microtubule dynamics inhibitor, HALAVEN® (eribulin), in patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Findings presented during the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) were based on interim data from 39 evaluable patients and showed an overall response rate (ORR) of 33.3% (n=13/39; 95% CI, 19.5-48.1), with one complete response and 12 partial responses (Abstract #: P5-15-02). ORR was similar between PD-L1-positive and -negative cohorts [PD-L1 positive=29.4% (n=5/17; 95% CI, 11.1-51.1); PD-L1 negative=33.3% (n=6/18; 95% CI, 14.1-54.6)]. HALAVEN and KEYTRUDA are not approved for use in combination.
The most common treatment-emergent adverse events (incidence greater than or equal to 35%) for the combination regimen were fatigue (n=29; 74.4%), nausea (n=20; 51.3%), peripheral neuropathy (n=17; 43.6%), neutropenia (n=15; 38.5%), and alopecia (n=14; 35.9%), with grade 3 or higher treatment-emergent adverse events observed in 66.7% (n=26) of patients. The two most common grade 3 or higher treatment-emergent adverse events observed were neutropenia (n=12; 30.8%) and fatigue (n=3; 7.7%). The possible immune-mediated adverse events of clinical interest with KEYTRUDA (grade 3/4) included rash (n=2; 5.1%), pneumonitis (n=1; 2.6%), hyperglycemia (n=1; 2.6%), renal failure (n=1; 2.6%) and rash generalized (n=1; 2.6%). Events of clinical interest for HALAVEN (grade 3/4) included neutropenia (n=11, 28.2%), febrile neutropenia (n=1; 2.6%), and peripheral neuropathy (n=1; 2.6%). There were 10 discontinuations due to treatment-emergent adverse events and no treatment-related deaths.
“Little progress has been made in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive and difficult-to-treat cancer. This initial evaluation of the combination of KEYTRUDA and HALAVEN is encouraging and represents an important part of our multi-pronged effort to bring forward new potential approaches for patients with this type of cancer,” said Roger Dansey, M.D., senior vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology late-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories.
“Patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer have a limited number of treatment options, making clinical study of new potential therapeutic approaches essential,” said Alton Kremer, M.D., Ph.D., chief clinical officer and chief medical officer, Oncology Business Group at Eisai. “With this ongoing study, we hope to learn more about the potential of HALAVEN as part of a combination regimen with KEYTRUDA, with the long-term goal of addressing the unmet medical needs of patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer.”
“In addition to anti-mitotic effects, in preclinical and translational studies, eribulin induced tumor vascular remodeling, reduction of hypoxia and promotion of the less aggressive epithelial phenotype in advanced breast cancer tumor tissue. We look forward to further understanding how these effects of eribulin on tumor biology and microenvironment may impact the effect of pembrolizumab on the immune system’s T cells,” said Sara Tolaney, M.D., MPH, medical oncologist, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, and the principal investigator of the study.
HALAVEN (eribulin mesylate) Injection is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer who have previously received at least two chemotherapeutic regimens for the treatment of metastatic disease. Prior therapy should have included an anthracycline and a taxane in either the adjuvant or metastatic setting. KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is not indicated in any type of breast cancer. This release discusses investigational uses for FDA-approved products. This release is not intended to convey conclusions about efficacy or safety. There is no guarantee that any investigational uses of such FDA-approved products will successfully complete clinical development or gain FDA approval.
About the Study
The single-arm, multi-center phase 1b/2 study (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02513472) is investigating the combination of KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) (200 mg intravenously on Day 1) with HALAVEN (eribulin mesylate) Injection (1.4 mg/m2 intravenously on Day 1 and Day 8) in 21-day cycles in 95 patients with metastatic TNBC who had previously been treated with up to two lines of chemotherapy. The primary endpoint of the phase 1b portion of the study is to assess the safety and tolerability of the combination; for the phase 2 portion of the study, the primary endpoint is investigator-assessed ORR and secondary endpoints include progression-free survival, overall survival and duration of response as well as efficacy in a subset of patients with PD-L1-positive tumors.
The results presented at SABCS were based on a planned interim analysis. At the time of data cutoff (July 12, 2016), 89 patients were enrolled, 39 of whom were evaluable.
The study is being conducted under an existing clinical trial collaboration agreement between the two companies.
About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that begins in the cells of the breast. In 2016, an estimated 246,660 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and nearly 40,450 women will die from the disease.
Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive type of breast cancer where the cancer cells do not have estrogen or progesterone receptors and do not have HER2, a growth-promoting protein. Approximately 12% of breast cancer patients are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer tends to grow and spread quickly. Specifically, patients with triple-negative breast cancer are nearly two times more likely to have distant metastatic disease than those with most other types of breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer is an advanced stage of the disease that occurs when cancer spreads beyond the breast to other parts of the body. It is estimated that approximately five percent to 10 percent of women with breast cancer will have metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis. Of these women, an estimated one in five is expected to survive five years.
About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)
KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells.
KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the approved indications. KEYTRUDA for injection is supplied in a 100 mg single use vial.
KEYTRUDA Indications and Dosing
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma at a dose of 2 mg/kg every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have high PD-L1 expression [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥50%] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.
KEYTRUDA is also indicated for the treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors express PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations should have disease progression on FDA-approved therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA.
In metastatic NSCLC, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.
Head and Neck Cancer
KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. In HNSCC, KEYTRUDA is administered at a fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.
Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)
KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) can cause immune-mediated pneumonitis, including fatal cases. Pneumonitis occurred in 94 (3.4%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 1 (0.8%), 2 (1.3%), 3 (0.9%), 4 (0.3%), and 5 (0.1%) pneumonitis, and occurred more frequently in patients with a history of prior thoracic radiation (6.9%) compared to those without (2.9%). Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis. Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 or recurrent Grade 2 pneumonitis.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated colitis. Colitis occurred in 48 (1.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.4%), 3 (1.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) colitis. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated hepatitis. Hepatitis occurred in 19 (0.7%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.4%), and 4 (<0.1%) hepatitis. Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA.
KEYTRUDA can cause hypophysitis. Hypophysitis occurred in 17 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.2%), 3 (0.3%), and 4 (<0.1%) hypophysitis. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency). Administer corticosteroids and hormone replacement as clinically indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3 or 4 hypophysitis.
KEYTRUDA can cause thyroid disorders, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism occurred in 96 (3.4%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.8%) and 3 (0.1%) hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurred in 237 (8.5%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (6.2%) and 3 (0.1%) hypothyroidism. The incidence of new or worsening hypothyroidism was higher in patients with HNSCC occurring in 28 (15%) of 192 patients with HNSCC, including Grade 3 (0.5%) hypothyroidism. Thyroiditis occurred in 16 (0.6%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.3%) thyroiditis. Monitor patients for changes in thyroid function (at the start of treatment, periodically during treatment, and as indicated based on clinical evaluation) and for clinical signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders. Administer replacement hormones for hypothyroidism and manage hyperthyroidism with thionamides and beta-blockers as appropriate. Withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) for Grade 3 or 4 hyperthyroidism.
KEYTRUDA can cause type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic ketoacidosis, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients. Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes, and withhold KEYTRUDA and administer antihyperglycemics in patients with severe hyperglycemia.
KEYTRUDA can cause immune-mediated nephritis. Nephritis occurred in 9 (0.3%) of 2799 patients receiving KEYTRUDA, including Grade 2 (0.1%), 3 (0.1%), and 4 (<0.1%) nephritis. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.
KEYTRUDA can cause other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions. For suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, ensure adequate evaluation to confirm etiology or exclude other causes. Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, withhold KEYTRUDA and administer corticosteroids. Upon improvement to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Based on limited data from clinical studies in patients whose immune-related adverse reactions could not be controlled with corticosteroid use, administration of other systemic immunosuppressants can be considered. Resume KEYTRUDA when the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or less following corticosteroid taper. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any Grade 3 immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.
The following clinically significant immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% (unless otherwise indicated) of 2799 patients: arthritis (1.5%), exfoliative dermatitis, bullous pemphigoid, rash (1.4%), uveitis, myositis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, myasthenia gravis, vasculitis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, and partial seizures arising in a patient with inflammatory foci in brain parenchyma.
KEYTRUDA can cause severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions, which have been reported in 6 (0.2%) of 2799 patients. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions, including rigors, chills, wheezing, pruritus, flushing, rash, hypotension, hypoxemia, and fever. For Grade 3 or 4 reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.
Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. If used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant during treatment, apprise the patient of the potential hazard to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use highly effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months after the last dose of KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab).
In KEYNOTE-006, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 9% of 555 patients with advanced melanoma; adverse reactions leading to discontinuation in more than one patient were colitis (1.4%), autoimmune hepatitis (0.7%), allergic reaction (0.4%), polyneuropathy (0.4%), and cardiac failure (0.4%). Adverse reactions leading to interruption of KEYTRUDA occurred in 21% of patients; the most common (≥1%) was diarrhea (2.5%). The most common adverse reactions with KEYTRUDA vs ipilimumab were fatigue (28% vs 28%), diarrhea (26% with KEYTRUDA), rash (24% vs 23%), and nausea (21% with KEYTRUDA). Corresponding incidence rates are listed for ipilimumab only for those adverse reactions that occurred at the same or lower rate than with KEYTRUDA.
In KEYNOTE-002, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 12% of 357 patients with advanced melanoma; the most common (≥1%) were general physical health deterioration (1%), asthenia (1%), dyspnea (1%), pneumonitis (1%), and generalized edema (1%). Adverse reactions leading to interruption of KEYTRUDA occurred in 14% of patients; the most common (≥1%) were dyspnea (1%), diarrhea (1%), and maculopapular rash (1%). The most common adverse reactions with KEYTRUDA vs chemotherapy were fatigue (43% with KEYTRUDA), pruritus (28% vs 8%), rash (24% vs 8%), constipation (22% vs 20%), nausea (22% with KEYTRUDA), diarrhea (20% vs 20%), and decreased appetite (20% with KEYTRUDA). Corresponding incidence rates are listed for chemotherapy only for those adverse reactions that occurred at the same or lower rate than with KEYTRUDA.
KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 8% of 682 patients with metastatic NSCLC. The most common adverse event resulting in permanent discontinuation of KEYTRUDA was pneumonitis (1.8%). Adverse reactions leading to interruption of KEYTRUDA occurred in 23% of patients; the most common (≥1%) were diarrhea (1%), fatigue (1.3%), pneumonia (1%), liver enzyme elevation (1.2%), decreased appetite (1.3%), and pneumonitis (1%). The most common adverse reactions (occurring in at least 20% of patients and at a higher incidence than with docetaxel) were decreased appetite (25% vs 23%), dyspnea (23% vs 20%), and nausea (20% vs 18%).
KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 17% of 192 patients with HNSCC. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 45% of patients. The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in at least 2% of patients were pneumonia, dyspnea, confusional state, vomiting, pleural effusion, and respiratory failure. The most common adverse reactions (reported in at least 20% of patients) were fatigue, decreased appetite, and dyspnea. Adverse reactions occurring in patients with HNSCC were generally similar to those occurring in patients with melanoma or NSCLC, with the exception of increased incidences of facial edema (10% all Grades; 2.1% Grades 3 or 4) and new or worsening hypothyroidism.
It is not known whether KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, instruct women to discontinue nursing during treatment with KEYTRUDA and for 4 months after the final dose.
Safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA have not been established in pediatric patients.
For more information about KEYTRUDA, please see the Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_pi.pdf and
Patient Information/Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_mg.pdf”
About HALAVEN® (eribulin mesylate) Injection
HALAVEN® (eribulin mesylate) is a microtubule dynamics inhibitor indicated for the treatment of patients with:
- Metastatic breast cancer who have previously received at least two chemotherapeutic regimens for the treatment of metastatic disease. Prior therapy should have included an anthracycline and a taxane in either the adjuvant or metastatic setting.
- Unresectable or metastatic liposarcoma who have received a prior anthracycline- containing regimen.
Discovered and developed by Eisai, eribulin is a synthetic analog of halichondrin B, a natural product that was isolated from the marine sponge Halichondria okadai. First in the halichondrin class, Halaven is a microtubule dynamics inhibitor. Eribulin is believed to work primarily via a tubulin-based mechanism that causes prolonged and irreversible mitotic blockage, ultimately leading to apoptotic cell death. Additionally, in preclinical studies of human breast cancer, eribulin demonstrated complex effects on the tumor biology of surviving cancer cells, including increases in vascular perfusion resulting in reduced tumor hypoxia, and changes in the expression of genes in tumor specimens associated with a change in phenotype, promoting the epithelial phenotype, opposing the mesenchymal phenotype. Eribulin has also been shown to decrease the migration and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells.
Important Safety Information for Halaven (eribulin mesylate) Injection
Warnings and Precautions
Neutropenia: Severe neutropenia (ANC <500/mm3) lasting >1 week occurred in 12% of patients with mBC and liposarcoma or leiomyosarcoma. Febrile neutropenia occurred in 5% of patients with mBC and 2 patients (0.4%) died from complications. Febrile neutropenia occurred in 0.9% of patients with liposarcoma or leiomyosarcoma, and fatal neutropenic sepsis occurred in 0.9% of patients. Patients with mBC with elevated liver enzymes >3 × ULN and bilirubin >1.5 × ULN experienced a higher incidence of Grade 4 neutropenia and febrile neutropenia than patients with normal levels. Monitor complete blood cell counts prior to each dose, and increase the frequency of monitoring in patients who develop Grade 3 or 4 cytopenias. Delay administration and reduce subsequent doses in patients who experience febrile neutropenia or Grade 4 neutropenia lasting >7 days.
Peripheral Neuropathy: Grade 3 peripheral neuropathy occurred in 8% of patients with mBC (Grade 4=0.4%) and 22% developed a new or worsening neuropathy that had not recovered within a median follow-up duration of 269 days (range 25-662 days). Neuropathy lasting >1 year occurred in 5% of patients with mBC. Grade 3 peripheral neuropathy occurred in 3.1% of patients with liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma receiving Halaven and neuropathy lasting more than 60 days occurred in 58% (38/65) of patients who had neuropathy at the last treatment visit. Patients should be monitored for signs of peripheral motor and sensory neuropathy. Withhold Halaven in patients who experience Grade 3 or 4 peripheral neuropathy until resolution to Grade 2 or less.
Embryo-Fetal Toxicity: Halaven can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Advise females of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during treatment with Halaven and for at least 2 weeks following the final dose. Advise males with female partners of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during treatment with Halaven and for 3.5 months following the final dose.
QT Prolongation: Monitor for prolonged QT intervals in patients with congestive heart failure, bradyarrhythmias, drugs known to prolong the QT interval, and electrolyte abnormalities. Correct hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia prior to initiating Halaven and monitor these electrolytes periodically during therapy. Avoid in patients with congenital long QT syndrome.
In patients with mBC receiving Halaven (eribulin mesylate) Injection, the most common adverse reactions (≥25%) were neutropenia (82%), anemia (58%), asthenia/fatigue (54%), alopecia (45%), peripheral neuropathy (35%), nausea (35%), and constipation (25%). Febrile neutropenia (4%) and neutropenia (2%) were the most common serious adverse reactions. The most common adverse reaction resulting in discontinuation was peripheral neuropathy (5%).
In patients with liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma receiving Halaven, the most common adverse reactions (≥25%) reported in patients receiving Halaven were fatigue (62%), nausea (41%), alopecia (35%), constipation (32%), peripheral neuropathy (29%), abdominal pain (29%), and pyrexia (28%). The most common (≥5%) Grade 3-4 laboratory abnormalities reported in patients receiving Halaven were neutropenia (32%), hypokalemia (5.4%), and hypocalcemia (5%). Neutropenia (4.9%) and pyrexia (4.5%) were the most common serious adverse reactions. The most common adverse reactions resulting in discontinuation were fatigue and thrombocytopenia (0.9% each).
Use in Specific Populations
Lactation: Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in breastfed infants from eribulin mesylate, advise women not to breastfeed during treatment with Halaven and for 2 weeks after the final dose.
Hepatic and Renal Impairment: A reduction in starting dose is recommended for patients with mild or moderate hepatic impairment and/or moderate or severe renal impairment.
For more information about Halaven, click here for the full Prescribing Information.
Merck’s Focus on Cancer
Merck’s goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck, helping people fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer.
As part of our focus on cancer, Merck is committed to exploring the potential of immuno-oncology with one of the fastest-growing development programs in the industry. We are currently executing an expansive research program that includes nearly 400 clinical trials evaluating our anti-PD-1 therapy across more than 30 tumor types. We also continue to strengthen our immuno-oncology portfolio through strategic acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising immunotherapeutic candidates with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers.
For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.
For 125 years, Merck has been a global health care leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
About Eisai Inc.
At Eisai Inc., human health care (hhc) is our goal. We give our first thought to patients and their families, and helping to increase the benefits health care provides. As the U.S. pharmaceutical subsidiary of Tokyo-based Eisai Co., Ltd., we have a passionate commitment to patient care that is the driving force behind our efforts to discover and develop innovative therapies to help address unmet medical needs.
Eisai is a fully integrated pharmaceutical business that operates in two global business groups: oncology and neurology (dementia-related diseases and neurodegenerative diseases). Each group functions as an end-to-end global business with discovery, development, and marketing capabilities. Our U.S. headquarters, commercial and clinical development organizations are located in New Jersey; our discovery labs are in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; and our global demand chain organization resides in Maryland and North Carolina. To learn more about Eisai Inc., please visit us at www.eisai.com/US.
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