2011 NCCN Conference: New Treatment Options Lead to Steady Progress Against Ovarian Cancer

Recommendations stemming from recent clinical trials highlight notable updates to the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines™) for Ovarian Cancer at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) 16th Annual Conference.

Robert J. Morgan, Jr., M.D., Professor of Medical Oncology, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center; Chair, NCCN Guidelines Panel for Ovarian Cancer

Although finding effective screening tools remains a priority, new treatment options for women with ovarian cancer, such as the ones outlined in the updated NCCN Guidelines for Ovarian Cancer,[1] are vital to making steady progress against the disease according to Robert J. Morgan, Jr., M.D., of City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Ovarian Cancer. Dr. Morgan outlined significant updates to the NCCN Guidelines during a recent presentation at the NCCN 16th Annual Conference.

The NCCN Guidelines address epithelial ovarian cancer (including borderline or low malignant potential) and less common histopathologies, including malignant germ neoplasms, carcinosarcomas, and sex cord-stromal tumors. They also discuss fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer, which are less common neoplasms that are managed in a similar manner to epithelial ovarian cancer.

“Regardless of the type of cancer, the NCCN Guidelines for Ovarian Cancer reflect the importance of stage and grade of disease on prognosis and treatment recommendations,” said Dr. Morgan.

The NCCN Guidelines continue to recommend that women with borderline epithelial ovarian cancer of low malignant potential be primarily surgically managed. In contrast to patients with frankly invasive ovarian carcinoma, women with borderline disease tend to be younger and are often diagnosed with stage I disease.

“The benefits of postoperative chemotherapy has not been demonstrated for patients who have no microscopically demonstrable invasive implants, said Dr. Morgan. “Even patients with advanced stage disease at presentation have an excellent prognosis and chemotherapy should be avoided.”

The NCCN Guidelines recommend surgery limited to a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (USO) (preserving the uterus and contralateral ovary) for women who wish to maintain their fertility, and standard ovarian cancer debulking surgery is recommended for those not concerned about fertility preservation.

On the contrary, in women diagnosed with stage II, III, or IV epithelial ovarian cancer, the NCCN Guidelines recommend intraperitoneal chemotherapy for first-line therapy and have been updated to include dose-dense paclitaxel (Taxol®:, Bristol-Myers Squibb) as a possible treatment option.

Dr. Morgan noted that in a recent clinical trial, dose-dense weekly paclitaxel with carboplatin (Paraplatin®:, Bristol-Myers Squibb) showed an increase in both progression-free survival and overall survival when compared with conventional intraperitoneal chemotherapy of weekly carboplatin/paclitaxel.[2]

“However, the dose-dense regimen is more toxic, and patients discontinued dose-dense paclitaxel therapy more often than those receiving standard therapy,” stated Dr. Morgan. “As with all treatment decisions, the patient needs to weigh the potential benefits and risks and discuss them thoroughly with their physician.”

Dr. Morgan discussed two additional phase 3 trials assessing bevacizumab (Avastin®:, Genentech/Roche) combined with carboplatin/paclitaxel in the upfront setting compared to carboplatin/paclitaxel alone.[3-4] Although data regarding overall survival and quality of life have not been reported yet, the studies did indicate that the median progression-free survival increased in patients receiving bevacizumab as a first line and maintenance therapy.

“Only modest improvements in progression-free survival were observed in both of these trials. The NCCN Guidelines Panel prefers to await mature results of these trials prior to recommending the routine addition of bevacizumab to carboplatin/paclitaxel,” said Dr. Morgan.

As such, the updated NCCN Guidelines includes new language detailing the Panel’s view on bevacizumab encouraging participation in ongoing clinical trials that are further investigating the role of anti-angiogenesis agents in the treatment of ovarian cancer, both in the upfront and recurrence settings.

Biomarkers continue to emerge as an area of interest in predicting future patterns of the disease. In patients with ovarian cancer, Dr. Morgan discussed the value of monitoring CA-125 levels in regards to a recent study[5] comparing early versus delayed treatment of relapsed ovarian cancer.

“Often, levels of CA-125 have been shown to rise prior to a clinical or symptomatic relapse in women with ovarian cancer. This trial looked at whether there was a benefit of early treatment on the basis of increased CA-125 concentrations compared with delayed treatment on the basis of clinical recurrence,” said Dr. Morgan.

The study, which was published in The Lancet, found that there was no survival benefit to early institution of treatment based on increased CA-125 levels and that the quality of life was superior in patients in the late treatment arm.

“The results of the trial suggest that the utility of the routine monitoring of CA-125 levels in limited,” said Dr. Morgan. “The NCCN Guidelines Panel encourages patients and their physicians to actively discuss the pros and cons of CA-125 monitoring based upon these findings and have updated the NCCN Guidelines to include language supporting this recommendation.”

Virtually all drugs used in oncology have the potential to cause adverse drug reactions while being infused, which can be classified as either infusion or allergic reactions. Recently, hypersensitivity to platinum compounds has been recognized as a potential issue for patients being administered these compounds.

“Platinum compounds remain very important in the treatment of ovarian cancer in both the upfront and recurrence settings, so it was important to design strategies to allow for the safe desensitization of these agents in patients who develop allergies,” said Dr. Morgan.

Standard desensitization regimens include slowly increasing infusion concentrations over several hours. However, Dr. Morgan noted that these procedures must be done in a specific manner in order to be safely administered and pointed to the recommendations within the updated NCCN Guidelines discussing the management of drug reactions.

In conclusion, Dr. Morgan emphasized that although steady progress is being made in the treatment of ovarian cancer, further trials are necessary to investigate the role of targeted agents alone and in combination in newly diagnosed and recurrent ovarian cancer. In addition, enrollment of patients with ovarian cancer must be encouraged.

The NCCN Guidelines are developed and updated through an evidence-based process with explicit review of the scientific evidence integrated with expert judgment by multidisciplinary panels of expert physicians from NCCN Member Institutions. The most recent version of this and all NCCN Guidelines are available free of charge at NCCN.org. The NCCN Guidelines for Patients™: Ovarian Cancer is available at NCCN.com.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), a not-for-profit alliance of 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers, is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers. The primary goal of all NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives. For more information, visit NCCN.org.

The NCCN Member Institutions are:

  • City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
  • Duke Cancer Institute
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center / Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
  • The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
  • Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
  • The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
  • Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  • Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine
  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital / University of Tennessee Cancer Institute
  • Stanford Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UNMC Eppley Cancer Center at The Nebraska Medical Center
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

References:

1/ Ovarian Cancer Including Fallopian Tube Cancer & Primary Peritoneal Cancer, Version 2.2011, NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines™), National Comprehensive Cancer Network. [PDF Adobe Reader Document – requires free registration and log-in at NCCN.org]

2/ Katsumata N, Yasuda M, Takahashi F, et. alJapanese Gynecologic Oncology Group. Dose-dense paclitaxel once a week in combination with carboplatin every 3 weeks for advanced ovarian cancer: a phase 3, open-label, randomised controlled trialLancet. 2009 Oct 17;374(9698):1331-8. Epub 2009 Sep 18. PubMed PMID: 19767092.

3/ Burger RA, Brady MF, Bookman MA, et. al.  Phase III trial of bevacizumab in the primary treatment of advanced epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC), primary peritoneal cancer (PPC), or fallopian tube cancer (FTC):  a Gynecologic Oncology Group study.  J Clin Oncol 28:18s, 2010 (suppl; abstr LBA1).

4/ Perren T, Swart AM, Pfisterer J, et. alICON7: A phase III randomized gynecologic cancer intergroup trial of concurrent bevacizumab and chemotherapy followed by maintenance bevacizumab, versus chemotherapy alone in women with newly diagnosed epithelial ovarian (EOC), primary peritoneal (PPC), or fallopian tube cancer (FTC).Ann Oncol 21;viii2, 2010 (suppl 8; abstr LBA4).

5/Rustin G, van der Burg M, Griffin C, et. al. Early versus delayed treatment of relapsed ovarian cancer. Lancet. 2011 Jan 29;377(9763):380-1. PubMed PMID: 21277438.

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Additional 2011 NCCN Annual Meeting Information

Ohio State University Reports That Ovarian Cancer Drug Bevacizumab Is Not Cost-Effective

An analysis conducted by Ohio State University cancer researchers found that adding the targeted therapy bevacizumab to the first-line treatment of patients with advanced ovarian cancer is not cost effective.

An analysis conducted by Ohio State University cancer researchers found that adding the targeted therapy bevacizumab [Avastin®] to the first-line treatment of patients with advanced ovarian cancer is not cost-effective.

The findings comparing the relative value of various clinical strategies were published online March 7 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO).

Dr. David E. Cohn is a gynecologic oncologist & researcher at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital & Richard J. Solove Research Institute. He is also the lead author of the bevacizumab cost-effectiveness study.

The researchers performed a cost-effectiveness analysis looking at a clinical trial conducted by the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) studying the use of bevacizumab along with standard chemotherapy for patients with advanced ovarian cancer, said first author Dr. David E. Cohn, a gynecologic surgical oncologist and researcher at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Bevacizumab is a novel targeted therapy designed to inhibit angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels develop and carry vital nutrients to a tumor.

Although a discussion regarding cost-effectiveness of a potentially life-extending intervention invariably suggests the rationing of limited health care resources, the intent of this study was to provide a framework with which to evaluate the pending results of a clinical trial of three different interventions for ovarian cancer, said Cohn.

“We do not suggest that bevacizumab, also known by the brand name Avastin, should be withheld from a patient with ovarian cancer, but rather argue that studies evaluating the effectiveness of new treatments should also be interpreted with consideration of the expense,” says Cohn, who collaborated with Dr. J. Michael Straughn Jr., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The results of the randomized phase III [GOG 218] clinical trial demonstrated an additional 3.8 months of progression-free survival (PFS) when maintenance bevacizumab was added for about one year following treatment with standard chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel along with bevacizumab.

“We put together a model looking at the variety of treatment arms on this clinical trial, each of which included 600 patients,” said Cohn. “Given the fact that the addition of the drug was associated with 3.8 months of additional survival without cancer, we set out to determine whether or not that benefit of survival was justified by the expense of the drug.”

The model showed that standard chemotherapy for patients in the clinical trial would cost $2.5 million, compared to $78.3 million for patients who were treated with standard chemotherapy and bevacizumab, plus additional maintenance treatments of bevacizumab for almost one year.

Bevacizumab has been used in the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved it for the treatment of colorectal, lung, breast, brain (glioblastoma) and renal cell [kidney] cancers.

Typically each treatment with bevacizumab costs $5,000, with most of those costs directly attributable to the cost of the drug, Cohn said.

Effectiveness was defined as months of progression-free survival, and costs were calculated as total costs per strategy. Cost-effectiveness strategies were defined as the cost per year of progression-free survival. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was defined as the costs per progression-free year of life saved.

“Ultimately, we found that if you reduced the drug cost to 25 percent of the baseline, it does become cost effective to treat patients with bevacizumab,” said Cohn. “Or, if the survival could be substantially increased above the 3.8 months of progression-free survival, that could lead to cost-effective treatment for patients with advanced ovarian cancer.”

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic cancer, with almost 14,000 women expected to die from the disease this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

“It is anticipated that in the future, there will be increased scrutiny regarding the individual and societal costs of an effective medication,” said Cohn. “We hope that future clinical trials will incorporate the prospective collection of cost, toxicity and quality-of-life data to allow for a fully informed interpretation of the results.”

Other Ohio State researchers involved in the study are Kenneth H. Kim, Kimberly E. Resnick and David O’Malley.

Big Cost For Little Gain in Ovarian Cancer – JCO Editorial

Results of the cost-effectiveness model reported above by Cohen et. al. reveal that paclitaxel plus carboplatin plus bevacizumab, followed by bevacizumab maintenance (PCB-B), as tested in the GOG 218 phase III clinical trial, costs $78.3 million ($1,305,000 per patient) with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $401,088 per progression-free year of life saved. It is important to note that traditional cost-effectiveness study models utilize the costs of improvements in overall survival, as compared to the traditional cost-effective standard of $50,000 per year of life saved, or more recently, $100,000 per year of life saved.  Cohen et. al. found that the traditional standard of $100,000 per progression free year of life saved can be achieved in calculating the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio, but only at a bevacizumab drug price point that is 25% below the actual drug cost.

Martee L. Hensley, M.D., Gynecologic Medical Oncology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

In an accompanying JCO editorial, Martee L. Hensley, M.D., a board-certified medical oncologist who treats women with gynecologic cancers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York city, raises several important considerations with respect to the Ohio State University study.

First, Dr. Hensley notes that the “costs” accounted for by the Ohio State University researchers only refer to the additional monies incurred by adding bevacizumab to the standard of care paclitaxel-carboplatin treatment.  Specifically, the researchers used a standard cost metholodolgy based upon estimates of drug costs using Medicare reimbursement rates.  The model used does not include indirect costs (e.g., patient out-of-pocket expenses, time lost from work associated with 51 weeks of bevacizumab maintenance, etc.). The only costs related to toxicity of treatment included by researchers were those associated with management of intestinal perforations. Dr. Hensley highlights the fact that the cost model does not include management of grade 2 or worse hypertension or other potential problems that may be caused by bevacizumab or the other chemotherapy drugs.  To the extent that additional costs are added to the model, the cost-effectiveness ratio generated by the researchers would worsen.

Second, Dr. Hensley explains that out of necessity, the researchers’ cost-effectiveness model used PFS data due to the unavailability of overall survival or quality adjusted overall survival data in connection with the three most recent bevacizumab phase III clinical trials. This model construct assumes that the 3.8 month improvement in PFS (as reported by the GOG 218 trial investigators)  provides an improvement in the patient’s experience. Dr. Hensley emphasizes that most ovarian cancer recurrences are identified while the patient is still asymptomatic, with the help of CA-125 blood testing and computed tomography imaging (i.e., CT scan).  Stated differently, it may not be correct to assume that remaining radiographically progression-free for an addtional 3.8 months would improve a patient’s quality of life.  If GOG 218 ultimately finds that PCB-B does not improve overall survival, then the drug’s cost-effectiveness will drift farther away from an acceptable level, says Hensley.

Third, Dr. Hensley points out that only when PFS associated with PCB-B use was hypothetically extended to 32.1 months (observed PFS in GOG 218 was 14.1 months) by the researchers did the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio approach $100,000 per progression-free year of life saved.  Hensley believes that the bevacizumab data accrued to date suggests that a 32.1 month PFS is unlikely. Notably, median PFS is only 24 months among lower-risk patients with optimally debulked stage III ovarian cancer treated with intraperitoneal-based platinum drug/taxane drug therapy.

Fourth, Dr. Hensley explains that it may be possible to achieve a better incremental cost-effectiveness ratio based upon preliminary data derived from the Gynaecologic Cancer Intergroup (GCIG) phase III randomized clinical trail of paclitaxel plus carboplatin, with or without bevacizumab and bevacizumab maintenace therapy (ICON7 trial). The bevacizumab dose tested in ICON7 was only half of that used in GOG 218 (7.5 mg/kg versus 15 mg/kg), and the duration of maintenance therapy in ICON7 was only 36 weeks of continued treatment as compared to 51 weeks in GOG 218. Preliminary results reported by the GCIG in ICON7 indicate that bevacizumab creates a PFS advantage in line with that produced in GOG 218, but at half the dose. Based on these facts, Hensley states that potential use of lower-dose and shorter-duration bevacizumab would improve the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio. Moreover, if lower dose/shorter duration bevacizumab use is also found to reduce the frequency of grade 2 or worse hypertension, the overall costs associated with the drug would also be lower, says Hensley.

Dr. Hensley believes that there are additional steps to be taken (and questions to be answered) which could improve an evaluation of the role and costs of bevacizumab:

  • Is there a clinically meaningful overall survival advantage to PCB-B over paclitaxel plus carboplatin? If PCB-B is not effective, then by definition, it is not cost-effective.
  • Is the data from ICON7 sufficient to permit treatment at half the dose for 9 months instead of 12 months? If so, total bevacizumab costs would be lower.
  • Is there a subset of patients who benefit dramatically from PCB-B?
  • If there is a subset of patients who benefit dramatically from PCB-B, it is necessary to study this group of women to determine if potential biomarkers can identify which patients will or will not benefit from the addition of bevacizumab. Identifying biomarkers that can predict response means commitment to correlative studies as part of large clinical trials.

In sum, Dr. Hensley believes that buying bevacizumab at $78.3 million for 3.8 months of progression-free survival on behalf of approximately 600 women is not sustainable in today’s health care delivery system. Moreover, the incurrence of such costs may hinder basic clinical research to find better compounds that improve PFS by a more meaningful magnitude, says Dr. Hensley.  From Hensley’s perspective, it appears that the stage is set for a potential collision between medicine and policy with respect to where and how a finite number of health care dollars will be spent.

About the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (cancer.osu.edu) is one of only 40 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top cancer hospitals in the nation, The Arthur G. James Hospital is the 205-bed adult patient-care component of the cancer program at The Ohio State University. The OSUCCC – James is one of only seven funded programs in the country approved by the NCI to conduct both phase I and II clinical trials.

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GOG Says Continuation of Pivotal OPAXIO Maintenance Therapy Trial (GOG-212) Remains High Priority

Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) Notifies CTI That Continuation of GOG-212 Pivotal Trial of OPAXIO Maintenance Therapy in Front Line Ovarian Cancer Remains High Priority.  GOG-218 Bevacizumab Results Do Not Influence Importance of GOG-212

Cell Therapeutics, Inc. (“CTI”) announced today that the company received a statement on March 1, 2010 from the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) leadership that the phase III GOG-212 clinical trial of CTI’s OPAXIO™ (formerly known as Xyotax or CT-2103) used as maintenance therapy for ovarian cancer remains a high priority and enrollment will continue. The GOG made the statement to clarify that the recent results of the GOG-218 clinical trial bevacizumab in maintenance therapy for ovarian cancer has not influenced the importance of completing the GOG-212 clinical trial. The Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) is one of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) funded cooperative cancer research groups. The GOG is a multidisciplinary cooperative clinical trial research group focused on the study of gynecologic malignancies. The GOG is conducting phase III trials in ovarian cancer and other gynecologic cancers and has established standard treatments for these diseases in the U.S.

GOG leadership noted the following:

GOG-218 and GOG-212 differ in the type of patients under study. It is important to note that some of the patients who completed the initial 6 cycles of chemotherapy in GOG-218 had clinical evidence of persistent tumor and were randomized to either placebo (no treatment) or bevacizumab [Avastin®]. Thus a subset of GOG-218 patients received no therapy, despite the presence of persistent tumor. This is not the typical setting of using maintenance or consolidation therapy and it is not the setting for patients enrolled in GOG-212. In GOG-212, only patients who have achieved a complete clinical response are considered candidates for enrollment in the trial.

Reliance upon the data from GOG-218 to establish the “standard of care” must take into consideration the actual treatment effect (i.e., duration of benefit), the cost of the treatment, and the associated toxicity… [in GOG-212] the toxicity of the intervention may have less associated mortality and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio may be more acceptable to patients and the health care economists. Thus the GOG has no intention to discontinue enrollment in GOG 212 as they feel that the study is addressing a different scientific question and the primary outcome study goal is survival, not progression free survival, an outcome of greater importance to both physicians and patients.

The Data Monitoring Committee is scheduled to conduct an interim analysis of overall survival when 130 events are recorded among patients in the no maintenance treatment arm. The statistical analysis plan utilizes pre-specified boundaries for early stopping for success. Based on current enrollment and study duration, the interim analysis could be conducted as early as 2011. If successful, CTI could utilize those results to form the basis of its New Drug Application for OPAXIO.

About Cell Therapeutics, Inc.

Headquartered in Seattle, CTI is a biopharmaceutical company committed to developing an integrated portfolio of oncology products aimed at making cancer more treatable. For additional information, please visit http://www.celltherapeutics.com/.

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