Eli Lilly and Company announced that the U.S. FDA has approved VerzenioTM (abemaciclib) in combination with an aromatase inhibitor (AI) as initial endocrine-based therapy for the treatment of postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive (HR+), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative (HER2-) advanced or metastatic breast cancer.
This additional FDA approval marks the third indication for Verzenio within five months. In September 2017, Verzenio became the first and only cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)4 & 6 inhibitor approved in combination and as a single agent in metastatic breast cancer.
Specifically, Verzenio was approved for use in combination with fulvestrant for the treatment of women with HR+, HER2- advanced or metastatic breast cancer with disease progression following endocrine therapy, and as monotherapy for the treatment of adult patients with HR+, HER2- advanced or metastatic breast cancer with disease progression following endocrine therapy and prior chemotherapy in the metastatic setting.
The recommended dose of Verzenio in combination with an AI is 150 mg orally twice daily, continued until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Verzenio is available in four tablet strengths (200 mg, 150 mg, 100 mg, and 50 mg).
This approval of Verzenio as initial therapy in combination with an AI is based on the efficacy and safety demonstrated in the pivotal MONARCH 3 clinical trial. MONARCH 3 is a Phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating Verzenio in combination with an AI as initial endocrine-based therapy that enrolled 493 postmenopausal women with HR+, HER2- advanced breast cancer who had no prior systemic treatment for advanced disease. In patients who received neoadjuvant/adjuvant endocrine therapy, a disease-free interval of more than 12 months since completion of endocrine therapy was required.
This Verzenio new drug application was given Priority Review as part of the FDA’s Expedited Programs for Serious Conditions, a program used for therapies that address an unmet medical need in the treatment of serious or life-threatening conditions, such as metastatic breast cancer. Verzenio was also granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation in 2015 based on the Phase 1 JPBA trial.
In MONARCH 3, Verzenio dosed orally at 150 mg twice daily on a continuous schedule with an AI demonstrated a greater than 28-month median progression-free survival (PFS) in patients who received initial endocrine-based therapy for metastatic disease (28.2 months [95% CI: 23.5-NR] vs 14.8 months [95% CI: 11.2-19.2] with placebo plus an AI [HR: 0.54; 95% CI: 0.418-0.698, P <0.0001]).
In patients with measurable disease who received Verzenio plus an AI (n=267), an objective response rate of 55.4 percent was achieved (ORR; defined as complete response plus partial response [CR + PR], and based upon confirmed responses; PR defined as ≥30% reduction in target lesions)1 (n=148; 95% CI: 49.5-61.4), with 52.1 percent of patients having achieved a PR (n=139) and 3.4 percent having achieved a CR (n=9).2 In comparison, in the placebo-plus-AI group of patients with measurable disease (n=132), ORR was 40.2 percent (n=53; 95% CI: 31.8-48.5), with all women being partial responders. Median duration of response (DoR) was 27.4 months with Verzenio plus an AI (95% CI: 25.7-NR) versus 17.5 months with placebo plus an AI (95% CI: 11.2-22.2).
“This approval is an important milestone, as it shows that Verzenio plus an aromatase inhibitor substantially reduced tumor size and delayed disease progression in women with HR+, HER2- metastatic breast cancer. Notably, the MONARCH 3 trial included patients with certain concerning clinical characteristics, such as a pattern of disease that spread to the liver,” said Joyce O’Shaughnessy, M.D., Celebrating Women Chair in Breast Cancer Research and chair, Breast Cancer Research Program, Baylor University Medical Center, TexasOncology and U.S. Oncology, Dallas, TX. “This information will help inform treatment decisions for each patient, which can be complicated in advanced breast cancer.”
The labeling for Verzenio contains warnings and precautions for diarrhea, neutropenia, hepatotoxicity, venous thromboembolism, and embryofetal toxicity. Instruct patients at the first sign of loose stools to initiate antidiarrheal therapy, increase oral fluids, and notify their healthcare provider. Perform complete blood counts and liver function tests prior to the start of Verzenio treatment, every two weeks for the first two months, monthly for the next two months, and as clinically indicated.
Based on results, Verzenio may require dose modification. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of thrombosis and pulmonary embolism and treat as medically appropriate. Advise patients of potential risk to a fetus and to use effective contraception. See full Prescribing Information for further management instructions. The most common adverse reactions in the MONARCH 1, 2, and 3 trials (all grades, ≥20%) were diarrhea, neutropenia, nausea, abdominal pain, infections, fatigue, anemia, leukopenia, decreased appetite, vomiting, headache, alopecia, and thrombocytopenia.
“The speed with which our team has been able to work with the FDA to gain approval for this additional Verzenio indication underscores Lilly’s commitment to delivering meaningful medicines that can help more people living with advanced breast cancer,” said Sue Mahony, Ph.D., senior vice president and president of Lilly Oncology. “Verzenio has now been developed, studied and clinically proven in three key trials to be effective for women with HR+, HER2- metastatic breast cancer – helping to ensure we are providing support to those who need it most.”
“For those facing a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer or learning that their disease has spread further, each new indication and clinical development is critical,” said Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D., chairman, Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance. “Today’s news represents continued progress towards helping more people living with this devastating disease.”
About MONARCH 3 MONARCH 3 is a Phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled study designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Verzenio (abemaciclib), a CDK4 & 6 inhibitor, in combination with an AI (anastrozole or letrozole), as initial endocrine-based therapy for postmenopausal women with HR+, HER2- advanced (locoregionally recurrent or metastatic) breast cancer who have had no prior systemic treatment for advanced disease.
If neoadjuvant/adjuvant endocrine therapy was administered, a disease-free interval of more than 12 months since completion of endocrine therapy was required. A total of 493 patients were randomized 2:1 to receive 150 mg of Verzenio or placebo orally twice a day, without interruption, given in combination with either 1 mg of anastrozole or 2.5 mg of letrozole once daily until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. The primary endpoint of the study was PFS, with key secondary endpoints of ORR, DoR, overall survival and safety.
About Advanced Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012.5 An estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2018.6 Advanced breast cancer includes metastatic breast cancer, meaning cancer that has spread from the breast tissue to other parts of the body, and locally or regionally advanced breast cancer, meaning the cancer has grown outside the organ where it started but has not yet spread to other parts of the body.
Of all early stage breast cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S., approximately 30 percent will become metastatic and an estimated six to 10 percent of all new breast cancer cases are initially diagnosed as being metastatic.8 Survival is lower among women with a more advanced stage at diagnosis: 5-year relative survival is 99 percent for localized disease, 85 percent for regional disease, and 26 percent for metastatic disease. Other factors, such as tumor size, also impact 5-year survival estimates.
About VerzenioTM (abemaciclib) Verzenio (abemaciclib) is an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK)4 & 6, which are activated by binding to D-cyclins. In estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer cell lines, cyclin D1 and CDK4 & 6 promote phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein (Rb), cell cycle progression, and cell proliferation.
In vitro, continuous exposure to Verzenio inhibited Rb phosphorylation and blocked progression from G1 to S phase of the cell cycle, resulting in senescence and apoptosis (cell death). Preclinically, Verzenio dosed daily without interruption resulted in reduction of tumor size. Inhibiting CDK4 & 6 in healthy cells can result in side effects, some of which may be serious.3 Clinical evidence also suggests that Verzenio crosses the blood-brain barrier. In patients with advanced cancer, including breast cancer, concentrations of Verzenio and its active metabolites (M2 and M20) in cerebrospinal fluid are comparable to unbound plasma concentrations.
Verzenio is Lilly’s first solid oral dosage form to be made using a faster, more efficient process known as continuous manufacturing. Continuous manufacturing is a new and advanced type of manufacturing within the pharmaceutical industry, and Lilly is one of the first companies to use this technology.
Verzenio is indicated for the treatment of HR+, HER2- advanced or metastatic breast cancer:
• in combination with an aromatase inhibitor for postmenopausal women as initial endocrine-based therapy
• in combination with fulvestrant for women with disease progression following endocrine therapy
• as a single agent for adult patients with disease progression following endocrine therapy and prior chemotherapy in the metastatic setting