Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘CRPC’

Medivation-LogoThere’s nothing better than seeing good news in the early morning email alerts I have set up on cancer research!


astellas-logo-no-sloganToday, it was the turn of Astellas and Medivation to announce the results of the TERRAIN study, which is a primarily European phase 2 trial that began in March 2011 in the prechemotherapy setting for castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). The trial met its primary endpoint of progression free survival (PFS).


Why is this an important landmark in CRPC and what does the initial data show?

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Sometimes timing can be amusing when writing up data and conferences. Yesterday, while writing about the immuno-oncology developments in renal cell cancer (RCC), I was putting a table of the trials together and absent mindedly noticed that Merck didn’t have much going in this indication compared to BMS and Roche/Genentech.

Oddly, the company fixed that this morning with their announcement that they are expanding their combinations and collaborations for the anti-PD–1 antibody, MK–3475. One of the new trials includes a partnership with Pfizer for axitinib (Inlyta), enabling them to study a PD–1 + VEGF combination in RCC. The table in yesterday’s thought piece has now been updated to include this trial, although it is in the planning stage at present.

Today, I want to switch horses a little bit and talk about another immuno-oncology therapy, namely, ipilimumab (Yervoy).  Dr Charles Drake (Johns Hopkins) presented an update on the post chemotherapy trial (CA184–083) in CRPC at ASCO GU this weekend, which we wrote about from ESMO last Fall when the data was first presented (see here).  What’s interesting is that the trial, although negative, only just missed its endpoint.

Last week I came across some interesting new developments relating to ipilimumab that are well worth discussing here, particularly in relation to biomarkers, as they may have significant implications for the drug clinically.

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$EXEL Share Price Jan 6 2014The share price of Exelixis ($EXEL) is starting a run-up (after months in the doldrums) in advance of anticipated results from the COMET-1 phase 3 trial in metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) for cabozantinib (Cometriq, formerly XL184).

Cabozantinib is a small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor of c-Met and VEGFR2. It has been shown to significantly improve bone scans and decrease pain, but the $64,000 questions are will patients taking it live longer and feel better?

The answers will come from the COMET-1 trial that has a primary end point of overall survival (OS). It’s a placebo-controlled trial of 960 men with advanced prostate cancer randomly assigned to cabozantinib 60mg (n=640) or prednisone (5mg twice daily) (NCT01605227) who have disease progression after treatment with docetaxel chemotherapy and abiraterone (Zytiga) or enzalutamide (Xtandi).

Subscribers to premium content can login to read my analysis as to why I thought this trial would be negative.

Update Sep 1, 2014 COMET-1 is a failure

We normally put updates at the end of a post, but we’ve just heard the trial a failure, so I think it’s appropriate to put this upfront. Am glad that our analysis turned out to be correct. Congratulations to those blog subscribers who on the basis of this post sold all or part of their $EXEL position. Commiserations if you held on.


A scientific meeting that I would have liked to have attended and one where I think attendees will obtain a lot of insight into the future of prostate cancer research is the forthcoming American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Advances in Prostate Cancer Research meeting.

AACR Advances in Prostate Cancer Research Meeting 2012Chaired by Charles Sawyers (MSKCC) and Arul Chinnayan (Michigan) it has an impressive line-up of speakers and sessions.  The meeting takes place next week (Feb 6-9) in Orlando.

There are two presentations on cabozantib (XL184) that may offer new insights into the mechanism of action of the drug and its potential:

Cabozantinib (XL-184) and prostate cancer: Preclinical and clinical profile of a novel agent

Maha Hussain, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI

Cabozantinib (XL184) inhibits androgen-sensitive and castration-resistant prostate cancer in the bone and increases bone formation in non-tumored bones
Eva Corey, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

A few of the presentations at the meeting that caught my attention include:

  • Role of inflammation (William Nelson)
  • Influence of tumor microenvironment on progression and resistance (Christopher Logothetis),
  • Novel therapeutic targets in prostate cancer (Arul Chinnaiyan)
  • Overcoming castration-resistant prostate cancer 
(Charles Sawyers)

If you have in an interest in prostate cancer research, February 6-9 in Orlando is the place to be.

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One piece of hot news at the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (twitter #EMCC2011) taking place in Stockholm this weekend is the data on radium-223 chloride (Alpharadin) in metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer. The phase 3 ALSYMPCA trial results were presented in yesterday’s presidential symposia by Dr Chris Parker, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden Hospital.


The Scandinavian location for the presentation could not have been better, given that Alpharadin was developed by the Norwegian company Algeta. Bayer Schering Pharma AG have the worldwide commercial rights, but Algeta maintains a co-promotion option in the United States.

I first picked up on Alpharadin in a presentation given at the American Urological Association (AUA) annual meeting by Oliver Sartor (Tulane) earlier this year when he reviewed new prostate cancer products in development.

Algeta-Radium-223-Chloride-ASCO 2011-Abstract-4620At the ASCO 2011 meeting in Chicago there was a poster on the Alpharadin Phase 2 trial data (see the figure on the right) that caught my attention given that it showed an overall survival (OS) advantage.  This news was, however, largely drowned by the interest in cabozantinib (XL184).

The result is that Alpharadin has to many come out of left field. It is a promising compound for the treatment of prostate cancer that will provide new treatment options for patients with metastatic disease. In particular, use in combination with other therapies such as abiraterone acetate (Zytiga) may prolong survival to a greater extent than either does individually.

Currently, radium-223 chloride (Alpharadin) is only in investigational use and is not approved in Europe or the United States. It is, however, on the fast track towards FDA approval in 2012.

ALSYMPCA phase 3 prostate cancer data presentation ESMO ECCO 2011What makes Alpharadin exciting as a new treatment option for castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) is that the ALSYMPCA trial data shows that it not only provides a significant median overall survival (OS) benefit of 2.8 months compared to placebo (14 months versus 11.2 months, p=0.00185, HR 0.695), but significantly delays the time to first skeletal event by 5.2 months (13.6 months versus 8.4 months, p=0.00046, HR 0.610).

The overal survival (OS) benefit seen in the ALYSMPCA phase 3 trial is comparable to other approved agents in the post-docetaxel setting for CRPC. However, where it is unique is in the additional effect it has on skeletal related events (SRE), a common occurrence in metastatic prostate cancer.  Bone metastases are painful and have a significant impact on quality of life.

Other compounds that target the bone microenviroment such as denosumab (Xgeva), provide a delay in the time to first skeletal event in prostate cancer patients but to-date have not been shown to confer an overall survival advantage. This means that Alphardin is the first bone targeted agent to confer both an overall survival and a delay in time to first skeletal event.

After Dr Parker’s presentation of the ALSYMPCA phase 3 trial data yesterday here in Stockholm,  Professor Wim Oyen of the Department of Nuclear Medicine in Nijmegen discussed the data.

What he noted was the high tolerability of Ra-223 chloride (Alpharadin) as compared to other radiopharmaceuticals for treatment of patients with bone metastases.  He discussed how the emission of alpha particles allows for a short range effect (a few cell diameters) that is very localized, but with a large biological effect.

Oyen highlighted the “opportunity for improving patient outcome by adding Ra-223 in regimens of combination therapy,” something that Dr Parker speculated about in his media briefing.

Professor Oyen also saw “an opportunity for improving patient outcome by using Ra-223 in an adjuvant setting.”  His conclusion based on the phase 3 ALSYMPCA trial data presented was that radium-223 chloride (Alpharadin) is an “effective, very well tolerated and convenient treatment modality.


Dr Parker mentioned to me, while waiting for a train back to Stockholm, that the ALSYMPCA trial data he presented had not yet been submitted for publication. He said he would be disappointed if it did not appear in the New England Journal of Medicine. Given that it is groundbreaking and “practice changing,” I would be surprised if it is not published in the NEJM in due course.

I am sure that we will be hearing more about radium-223 chloride (Alpharadin) in the forthcoming months, especially now it is on fast track to FDA approval in 2012.

Although not a cure for prostate cancer, the ALSYMPCA trial data presented here in Stockholm is further good news for patients, and will provide a potential new treatment option for urologists and oncologists.

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I am off to Washington DC tomorrow for the annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA).

If you are not able to attend, then you can follow the Twitter coverage on Pharma Strategy Blog where Sally Church (@MaverickNY) will be aggregating the tweets.  The conference hashtag is #AUA2011.  I also expect to be live-tweeting from the conference.

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Like many medical conferences in the United States, the AUA meeting kicks off with independent continuing medical education (CME) satellite symposia on topics of interest.

As a lawyer who has to pay for his own continuing legal education (CLE) credits, I have to confess that I am somewhat cynical that other professionals such as physicians expect to have their CME paid for through free industry-sponsored events.  These symposia are certainly not cheap to run.

However, compared with Europe, CME events in the United States are usually well-produced and fair balanced, albeit with a topical theme that obviously relates to the sponsor’s interest.

The two satellite symposia that I will be attending at AUA are Friday evening’s Amgen supported “Managing Skeletal-Related Events in Patients with Prostate Cancer” and the Saturday morning Astellas/Medivation supported “Reason for Hope: Key Advances in the Management of Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer.”

While at Quintiles, I was lead CRA/European Project Manager for the phase III trial trial of risedronate in elderly women at risk of hip fracture, so I am interested in bone related treatments, and am looking forward to hearing more about denosumab (Xgeva®) and its impact on skeletal related events (SRE).

Oliver Sartor (Tulane) raises some excellent questions in a recent paper published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, “if a patient has a SRE, does it affect the way a patient feels, functions or survives?”

Sartor argues that a better definition of the benefit a drug has on SRE’s would be “a reduction in pain, analgesic consumption or improvement in quality of life (QoL)” instead of the current “feel, function or survive” standard.

He notes that patients with bone-metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) have a limited life expectancy, so that QoL is a key issue. “An asymptomatic event linked to a future adverse event is less meaningful in a patient with metastatic CRPC.

Sartor concluded his paper by saying:

“The lack of effect of bisphosphonates or denosumab on patient-reported outcomes including QoL, pain or analgesic consumption continues to be a disappointment for this entire field.”

When we talk about a reduction in SRE’s what does this really mean for the patient?  I look forward to hearing what the expert panel at Friday evening’s symposia on this topic and hope it will be addressed.

Moving on to the other satellite symposium, supported by Medivation/Astellas, that I will be attending early on Saturday morning.  I expect this symposium will focus on new drugs in the pipeline such as MDV3011 and ARN-509 that target the androgen receptor. Hopefully they will also discuss other therapeutics, such as the recently approved abiraterone acetate (Zytiga®), as well TAK-700, which has a similar mechanism of action to abiraterone, i.e. they both inhibit CYP17 and testosterone production.

I’m looking forward to hearing what the expert panel has to say about the need to take prednisone with abiraterone, and whether there are any issues surrounding long-term usage if abiraterone ends up being used earlier in the pre-chemotherapy setting.  Updated data from the COU-AA-301 trial will be presented at AUA on Monday, and I expect a lot of interest from urologists in this.

The satellite symposia are set to be a good warm up act to the start of the main AUA meeting that runs from May 14 to 19 in Washington DC.  I’ll be writing more from the AUA 2011 over the next few days.

ResearchBlogging.orgSartor, O. (2011). Denosumab in bone-metastatic prostate cancer: known effects on skeletal-related events but unknown effects on quality of life Asian Journal of Andrology DOI: 10.1038/aja.2011.33

Today at the European Association of Urology (EAU) annual meeting in Vienna, the big news was that 2010 was a “Grand Cru” year for new treatments for advanced prostate cancer.  Not only that, but sanofi-aventis announced that they had received European marketing approval for cabazitaxel (Jevtana®) in metastatic hormone resistance prostate cancer mHRPC.

The fact that there are now several new treatments available (or expected to be available in the not too distant future) is good news for patients and physicians.

What is interesting about prostate cancer is that it in terms of incidence it is comparable to breast cancer, yet seems to end up with far fewer resources and publicity.  Prostate cancer is to men, what breast cancer is to women.

The EAU 2011 Congress website has a variety of podcasts and webcasts of presentations, and I encourage anyone interested in the latest developments to check out the wealth of information they offer.  In particular, the presentation by Professor Johann De Bono from the Royal Marsden in the high risk prostate cancer plenary session today was one of my highlights of the meeting.

The take home message I obtained from EAU in Vienna is the excitement of new treatment options for castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) such as cabazitaxel, sipuleucel-T and abiraterone.  The challenge may well be to work out how best to use these new therapies, ie in what sequence and what potential combinations may evolve in the future.

However, as Professor Bertrand Tombal from Louvain in Belgium declared, 2010 was a Grand Cru for new prostate cancer treatments.  That is good news indeed.


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