Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘ASCO 2011 Prostate Cancer’

This is part 2 of my interview with Dr Maha Hussain, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Michigan.  You can read part 1 about cabozantinib and pain here.

Cabozantinib-Prostate-Cancer-Bone-Effect

At the 2011 ASCO annual meeting, Dr Hussain presented data from a non-randomized phase 2 trial with cabozantinib that showed dramatic improvements in bone scans before and after treatment.

Bones are living tissues that are constantly being remade, a dynamic process that involves formation of new bone and taking up of old bone, a process known as bone resorption.  Cancer cells can interfere with bone remodeling, resulting in increased new bone formation (osteoblastic response) or excessive bone resorption (osteoclastic response).

Bone scans involve the injection of radioactive tracers such as technetium-99m-MDP. In simple terms, the radioactive material detects bone turnover and areas of high bone metabolism.  These show up as darker “hot spots” where the tracers accumulate.

Bone scans have poor specificity because tumors, fractures and infection all lead to hot spots. Also, not all tumors or lesions are detected by a bone scan.  Bone scans have a sensitivity of around 62-89%.

At the 2011 Society for Translational Oncology Prostate Cancer Symposium, Professor Johann de Bono (The Institute for Cancer Research) noted that bone scans do not accurately reflect the activity of the disease in men with prostate cancer.

This raises the question as to what we should conclude from the bone scans seen with cabozantinib.  I put this question to Professor Hussain.

BSB: What is the significance of the bone scans that we see and what should we interpret from them given that bone scans don’t accurately reflect the disease?

Dr Hussain: I will refer you back to my presentation at ASCO originally and my recent AACR presentation.

I have specifically put a slide (together) to address, is what we are seeing a fluke, a function of a technique issue because you are targeting the osteoblasts?  Consequently if you inhibit osteoblastic function, you are not going to see much changes on the scan, or is there more too it?

Dr-Maha-Hussain-ASCO-2011-Cabozantinib-Presentation

The specific slide actually puts in columns the (percentage of) patients who had a partial or a complete resolution on the bone scan, versus those who had stable or progressive disease, and then matches it with other evidence of an anti-tumor effect as in target lesion regressions, progression free survival at I think the 6 month mark if I recall correctly, as in the pain improvement, narcotic use.

Recognizing that by the way the pain and narcotic use, both of these were post-hoc assessments that were done.  Once we saw the observation, the sponsor went back and began asking all the investigators to record these things.  Clearly, the ALK phosph going down, the bone turnover markers going down.

The short audio clip below expands on Dr Hussain’s viewpoint about cabozantinib and bone. Click here if you can’t see the SoundCloud audio player.

Dr Hussain’s conclusion is interesting from a marketing strategy perspective.  She does not position cabozantinib as a bone targeted drug such as Xgeva or a bone targeted radiopharmaceutical such as Alpharadin.  Instead, her view is that cabozantinib should be developed as a “prostate cancer specific drug that does have the added advantage of significant anti-tumor effect in the bone” ie an anti-cancer tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).

This is at odds with how Exelixis appear to be positioning it.  The corporate presentation at the Cowen Annual Healthcare Conference on March 6, 2012 had a strong focus on bone metastases: “Cabozantinib demonstrates unique ability to resolve bone metastases and decrease bone pain in CRPC,” one slide said.

If Dr Hussain is correct and we should consider cabozantinib as a prostate cancer specific drug, then it will need to compete on endpoints with other drugs that have shown an impact on overall survival.

Cabozantinib will likely not obtain regulatory approval on the basis of the bone scans, whatever they may show.

Without demonstrating a significant effect on overall survival, it’s hard to believe that cabozantinib will be able to compete effectively in what is fast becoming a very competitive prostate cancer market.

The final installment of the Biotech Strategy Blog interview with Dr Hussain will cover her perspective on the mechanism of action of cabozantinb, and where the drug, theoretically, might be expected to have most impact in prostate cancer.

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Launch of Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) at 2011 annual meeting of American Urological Association (AUA) in Washington DCThe market for prostate cancer therapies is set to expand from $1 billion currently to $5 billion by 2015, according to analysts reported by this morning’s Washington Post/Bloomberg news.  This is perhaps no surprise given the recent approval of abiraterone acetate (Zytiga®) from Ortho Biotech (JNJ).

New clinical data on prostate cancer clinical trial results is expected at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago this weekend from many of the prostate cancer therapies in development such as MDV3100, TAK700, ARN-509, cabozantinib (XL184), ipilimumab, custirsen (OGX-11), BPX-101, alpharadin, denosumab (Xgeva®) and Prostvac-VF.

Indeed, one could argue that prostate cancer is becoming a competitive marketplace.  Any emerging biotechnology company that is not already developing a prostate cancer drug is likely to find it a hard market in which to create a blockbuster.  By the time any drug comes to market, there will be incumbents with effective products who have captured market share.

Prostate cancer is an exciting market to watch from a marketing strategy and patient perspective, as several companies potentially bring new products to market over the next few years.

However, the bottom line is that patients will live longer as a result of all the innovation that is taking place.  Not only that but physician education and awareness of how to treat this disease is also likely to improve as they seek out knowledge on new therapies and treatments.  This to many will make a major difference.  At the recent American Urological Association (AUA) annual meeting, the sessions on treatment of prostate cancer were standing room only.  There is clearly a demand for knowledge out there as the treatment paradigms change.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is also innovation taking place in terms of improved diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.  Whether we should screen all men for PSA remains a controversial topic, although use of risk calculators do appear to offer less false positives.  Indeed, calculating risk is going to be one of the key areas that primary care physicians and urologists need to focus on, particularly in the light of the PIVOT trial data that was presented at AUA, showing radical prostatectomy (with risks including incontinence and erectile dysfunction) was not better than watchful waiting in low-risk, early stage disease.

However, a presentation I am looking forward to at ASCO 2011 is on circulating tumor cells (CTC) and whether these can be a prognostic or even a predictive biomarker.   Both the phase III MDV3100 and abiraterone acetate clinical trials captured CTC data.  It will be exciting news at ASCO 2011 if circulating tumor cells that require only a blood sample offer an improvement over PSA not only for detection of prostate cancer, but in monitoring the disease over time.

I will be at ASCO 2011 this weekend, and look forward to writing more on prostate cancer from the conference!

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