Genentech Announces Positive Results of Avastin Phase III Study in Women with Advanced Ovarian Cancer

Genentech announces positive results of Avastin Phase III study (GOG 218) in women with advanced ovarian cancer. The study showed that women who continued maintenance use of Avastin alone, after receiving Avastin in combination with chemotherapy, lived longer without the disease worsening compared to those who received chemotherapy alone. This is the first Phase III study of an anti-angiogenic therapy in advanced ovarian cancer to meet its primary endpoint.

Tumor angiogenesis is the proliferation of a network of blood vessels that penetrates into cancerous growths, supplying nutrients and oxygen and removing waste products. Tumor angiogenesis actually starts with cancerous tumor cells releasing molecules that send signals to surrounding normal host tissue. This signaling activates certain genes in the host tissue that, in turn, make proteins to encourage growth of new blood vessels. Photo credit: NCI

Genentech, Inc., a wholly owned member of the Roche Group , today announced that a Phase III study showed the combination of Avastin® (bevacizumab) and chemotherapy followed by maintenance use of Avastin alone increased the time women with previously untreated advanced ovarian cancer lived without the disease worsening (progression-free survival or PFS), compared to chemotherapy alone. A preliminary assessment of safety noted adverse events previously observed in pivotal trials of Avastin. Data from the study will be submitted for presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, June 4 – 8, 2010.

In the three-arm study, known as Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) 0218, women with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer who already had surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible were randomized to receive one of the following:

  • Arm 1: Placebo in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy followed by placebo alone, for a total of up to 15 months of therapy
  • Arm 2: Avastin in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy followed by placebo alone, for a total of up to 15 months of therapy
  • Arm 3: Avastin in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy followed by the maintenance use of Avastin alone, for a total of up to 15 months of therapy.

The study showed that women who continued maintenance use of Avastin alone, after receiving Avastin in combination with chemotherapy (Arm 3), lived longer without the disease worsening compared to those who received chemotherapy alone. Women who received Avastin in combination with chemotherapy, but did not continue maintenance use of Avastin alone (Arm 2), did not live longer without the disease worsening compared to chemotherapy alone.

“Additional medicines are urgently needed for women with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer, as most women’s cancer will worsen after their initial treatment,” said Hal Barron, M.D., F.A.C.C., Executive Vice President, Global Development and Chief Medical Officer. “We are encouraged by the positive findings of this study, which highlight the importance of continuing maintenance Avastin after combining Avastin with chemotherapy in this setting. We will discuss these results with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

Robert Allen Burger, MD, FACOG, FACS, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“This is good news for women with ovarian, primary peritoneal or fallopian tube cancers,” said GOG 0218 study chair Robert Burger, M.D., Fox-Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “This study showed that after initial surgery, the combination of Avastin and chemotherapy followed by extended treatment with Avastin improves progression-free survival in women with newly diagnosed advanced tumors.”

The trial is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the NCI and Genentech, and is being conducted by a network of researchers led by the GOG.

Avastin is being studied worldwide in more than 450 clinical trials for multiple types of cancer, including approximately 25 ongoing clinical trials in the United States for women with various stages of ovarian cancer.

About Ovarian Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women. In 2009 an estimated 21,500 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and approximately 14,500 died from the disease in the U.S. The disease causes more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer, and the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 70 percent of women with advanced disease will die from it within five years.

Ovarian cancer is associated with high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein associated with tumor growth and spread. Studies have shown a correlation between a high level of VEGF and a poorer prognosis in women with ovarian cancer. Currently, treatment options for women with this disease are limited to surgery and chemotherapy.

About the GOG 0218 Study

GOG 0218 is an international, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase III study in 1,873 women with previously untreated advanced epithelial ovarian, primary peritoneal or fallopian tube carcinoma. The study evaluates Avastin (5 cycles) in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy (6 cycles) compared to carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy alone (6 cycles). The trial is also designed to assess the maintenance use of Avastin alone following the initial combined regimen of Avastin and chemotherapy (for a total of up to 15 months of therapy), compared to carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy alone (6 cycles).

The primary endpoint of the study is PFS as assessed by trial investigators. Secondary and exploratory endpoints of the study include overall survival, PFS by independent review, objective response rate, safety, quality of life measures and analysis of patient tumor and blood samples.

Detailed safety assessments are ongoing. A preliminary assessment of safety performed by the GOG identified Avastin-related serious adverse events noted in previous pivotal studies, including fatal neutropenic infection and gastrointestinal perforation. The full study results, including safety information, will be presented at a future medical meeting.

About Avastin

Avastin is a solution for intravenous infusion and is a biologic antibody designed to specifically bind to a protein called VEGF. VEGF plays an important role throughout the lifecycle of the tumor to develop and maintain blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. Avastin interferes with the tumor blood supply by directly binding to the VEGF protein to prevent interactions with receptors on blood vessel cells. Avastin does not bind to receptors on normal or cancer cells. The tumor blood supply is thought to be critical to a tumor’s ability to grow and spread in the body (metastasize). For more information about angiogenesis, visit http://www.gene.com.

Boxed WARNINGS and Additional Important Safety Information

People treated with Avastin may experience side effects. In clinical trials, some people treated with Avastin experienced serious and sometimes fatal side effects, including:

Gastrointestinal (GI) perforation: Treatment with Avastin can result in the development of a potentially serious side effect called GI perforation, which is the development of a hole in the stomach, small intestine or large intestine. In clinical trials, this side effect occurred in more people who received Avastin than in the comparison group (0.3 percent to 2.4 percent). In some cases, GI perforation resulted in fatality.

Surgery and wound healing problems: Treatment with Avastin can lead to slow or incomplete wound healing (for example, when a surgical incision has trouble healing or staying closed). In some cases, this event resulted in fatality. Surgery and wound healing problems occurred more often in people who received Avastin than in the comparison group. Avastin therapy should not be started for at least 28 days after surgery and until the surgical wound is fully healed. The length of time between stopping Avastin and having voluntary surgery without the risk of having surgery and wound healing problems following surgery has not been determined.

Severe bleeding: Treatment with Avastin can result in serious bleeding, including coughing up blood, bleeding in the stomach, vomiting of blood, bleeding in the brain, nosebleeds and vaginal bleeding. These events occurred up to five times more often in people who received Avastin. Across cancer types, 1.2 percent to 4.6 percent of people who received Avastin experienced severe to fatal bleeding. People who have recently coughed up blood (greater than or equal to a half teaspoon of red blood) or have serious bleeding should not receive Avastin.

In clinical trials for different cancer types, there were additional serious and sometimes fatal side effects that occurred in more people who received Avastin than in those in the comparison group. The formation of an abnormal passage from parts of the body to another part (non-GI fistula formation) was seen in 0.3 percent or less of people. Severe to life-threatening stroke or heart problems were seen in 2.4 percent of people. Too much protein in the urine, which led to kidney problems, was seen in less than 1 percent of people. Additional serious side effects that occurred in more people who received Avastin than those in the comparison group included severe to life-threatening high blood pressure, which was seen in 5 percent to 18 percent of people, and nervous system and vision disturbances (reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome), which was seen in less than 0.1 percent of people. Infusion reactions with the first dose of Avastin were uncommon and occurred in less than 3 percent of people and severe reactions occurred in 0.2 percent of people.

Common side effects that occurred in more than 10 percent of people who received Avastin for different cancer types, and at least twice the rate of the comparison group, were nosebleeds, headache, high blood pressure, inflammation of the nose, too much protein in the urine, taste change, dry skin, rectal bleeding, tear production disorder, back pain and inflammation of the skin (exfoliative dermatitis). Across all trials, treatment with Avastin was permanently stopped in 8.4 percent to 21 percent of people because of side effects.

Avastin may impair fertility. Patients who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should talk with their doctor about the potential risk of loss of the pregnancy or the potential risk of Avastin to the fetus during and following Avastin therapy, and the need to continue an effective birth control method for at least six months following the last dose of Avastin.

For full Prescribing Information and Boxed WARNINGS on Avastin please visit http://www.avastin.com.

About Genentech

Founded more than 30 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a wholly owned member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For additional information about the company, please visit http://www.gene.com.

About The Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG)

The Gynecologic Oncology Group is a non-profit organization of more than 300 member institutions with the purpose of promoting excellence in the quality and integrity of clinical and basic scientific research in the field of Gynecologic malignancies. The Group is committed to maintaining the highest standards in the clinical trial development, execution, analysis and distribution of results. Continuous evaluation of our processes is utilized in order to constantly improve the quality of patient care.

GOG receives support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

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GOG Reports on Evaluation of Pemetrexed in Treatment of Recurrent Platinum-Resistant Ovarian Cancer

A phase II Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) clinical study found that pemetrexed (Altima®)-an antifolate antineoplastic agent that disrupts folate-dependent cell replication metabolic processes-is sufficiently active in the treatment of recurrent platinum-resistant ovarian cancer to warrant further investigation.  “Thus [pemetrexed] should be considered for combination with other agents, especially carboplatin, in first-line therapy,” said David Miller, M.D., F.A.C.S. (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA) and colleagues.

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David Miller, M.D. F.A.C.S., Professor, Gynecologic Oncology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

A phase II Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) clinical study found that pemetrexed (Altima®)-an antifolate antineoplastic agent that disrupts folate-dependent cell replication metabolic processes-is sufficiently active in the treatment of recurrent platinum-resistant ovarian cancer to warrant further investigation.  “Thus [pemetrexed] should be considered for combination with other agents, especially carboplatin, in first-line therapy,” said David Miller, M.D., F.A.C.S. (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA) and colleagues.

The purpose of the GOG study was to estimate the antitumor activity of pemetrexed in patients with persistent or recurrent, platinum-resistant epithelial ovarian or primary peritoneal cancer and to determine the nature and degree of toxicities.  The patients that participated in the study experienced disease progression on platinum-based primary chemotherapy or recurred within 6 months. Pemetrexed at a dose of 900 mg/m2 was administered as an intravenous infusion over 10 minutes every 21 days. Dose delay and adjustments were permitted for toxicity. Treatment was continued until disease progression or unacceptable adverse effects.  From July 6, 2004, to August 23, 2006, 51 patients enrolled in the study.  A total of 259 cycles (median, four; range one to 19 cycles) of pemetrexed were administered, with 40% of the patients receiving six or more cycles.

According to the investigators, the study produced the following results:

  • No treatment -related deaths were reported;
  • Eighteen patients (38%) had progressive disease. Three patients (6%) were not assessable;
  • One patient (2%) had a complete response (CR) and nine patients (19%) had partial responses (PRs), with a median duration response of 8.4 months. Seventeen patients (35%) had stable disease (SD) for a median of 4.1 months. Clinical benefit rate (CR + PR + SD) was 56%; and

Based upon the foregoing results, the investigators noted that pemetrexed “exhibited activity more favorable than that seen in other agents that have been test in first-line combinations by the GOG.” Pemetrexed, according to the investigators, has sufficient activity in the treatment of recurrent platinum-resistant ovarian cancer at the dose and schedule tested to warrant further investigation.

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Evaluation of Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy and Debulking Followed by Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy in Women with Stage III and IV Epithelial Ovarian, Fallopian Tube or Primary Peritoneal Cancer

It is well known that intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy prolongs survival in optimally cytoreduced (or debulked) ovarian cancer patients.  For patients who can not be optimally debulked, it is possible to administer neoadjuvant chemotherapy to place that patient in a position to be optimally debulked (i.e., 1 cm or less of residual disease post surgery) , thereby allowing the use of post-surgery IP chemotherapy (assuming optimal cytoreduction is achieved through surgery). This theory was tested in a Phase II clinical study (S0009) conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group (SOG). …

It is well known that intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy prolongs survival in optimally cytoreduced (or debulked) ovarian cancer patients.  For patients who can not be optimally debulked, it is possible to administer neoadjuvant chemotherapy to place that patient in a position to be optimally debulked (i.e., 1 cm or less of residual disease post surgery) , thereby allowing the use of post-surgery IP chemotherapy (assuming optimal cytoreduction is achieved through surgery). This theory was tested in a Phase II clinical study (S0009) conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group (SOG).

In SOG Study S009, researchers sought to evaluate overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), percentage of patients optimally debulked, and toxicity in Stage III/IV ovarian cancer patients treated with this strategy.

As part of the study, women with stage III/IV (pleural effusions only in stage IV) epithelial ovarian cancer, and fallopian tube or primary peritoneal carcinoma that presented with bulky disease were treated with neoadjuvant intravenous (IV) paclitaxel and carboplatin.  If, after neoadjuvant IV chemotherapy, the patient experienced a 50% or greater decrease in her CA125 tumor marker, cytoreduction surgery was performed.  If optimal debulking was achieved, the patient received IV paclitaxel, IP carboplatin and IP paclitaxel post-surgery.

The results of the study are set forth below.

  • 62 patients were registered for the study, of which four were ineligible.
  • 56 patients were evaluated for neoadjuvant chemotherapy toxicities. One patient died of pneumonia. Five patients had grade 4 toxicity, including neutropenia, anemia, leukopenia, anorexia, fatigue, muscle weakness, respiratory infection, and cardiac ischemia.
  • 36 patients received debulking surgery, and two patients had grade 4 hemorrhage.
  • 26 patients received post-cytoreduction chemotherapy. Four had grade 4 neutropenia.
  • At a median follow-up of 21 months, median PFS is 21 months and median OS is 32 months for all 58 patients.
  • PFS and OS for the 26 patients who received IV/IP chemotherapy is 29 and 34 months, respectively

The researchers performing the study concluded that the results compare favorably with other studies of sub-optimally debulked (i.e., >1 cm of residual disease post surgery) patients.

Primary SourcePhase II evaluation of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and debulking followed by intraperitoneal chemotherapy in women with stage III and IV epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer: Southwest Oncology Group Study S0009; Tiersten AD, Liu PY, Smith HO et. al., Gynecol Oncol. 2009 Mar;112(3):444-9. Epub 2009 Jan 12.