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Seattle Genetics Follows the Science, Taking on Rare Lymphoma No. 3

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expansion studies underway, both company-sponsored and investigator-sponsored, that Siegall is predicting Adcetris could exceed $1 billion in peak annual sales. While the small studies done by investigators aren’t designed to generate enough proof to win FDA approval, they do enable the company to skip ahead in development and run quick, relatively low-risk clinical trials that could expand the potential market for the product.

One of these key studies came to Seattle Genetics in January, when a researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center reported that 11 of 17 evaluable patients (65 percent) on the company’s drug had significant shrinkage of their tumors and skin lesions. Seven of the 11 responses were graded as complete remissions, meaning researchers couldn’t see any evidence of skin lesions or tumors. Adverse events were mostly mild diarrhea, chest tightness, hair loss, and numbness/tingling in the extremities.

That finding was confirmed earlier this month by a researcher at Stanford University who reported that 12 of 16 patients (75 percent) had what is considered a partial remission. None of them were graded as complete remissions, although that’s partly because of the scoring system used in the study. “If the lesion is 99.9 percent gone, it’s still hard to say that’s a complete response,” Siegall says. Side effects again were consistent with previous studies, although one patient had a severe case of nerve damage in the fingers and toes, the company said.

Even without claiming the tumors went away completely, the finding is still striking, because they were very sick patients who had gotten a median of six prior rounds of therapy. And even though they were quite sick, the partial remissions lasted at least six months for 68 percent of the patients. Side effects were consistent with other studies.

Those trials were enough for Seattle Genetics and its partner, Millennium, to go ahead and invest their own time and money in a pivotal stage study of 124 patients, which will compare brentuximab vedotin to standard chemotherapy. The main goal—agreed upon by Seattle Genetics, Millennium and U.S. regulators—will be to show the new drug offers an advantage in tumor shrinkage for at least four months.

Based on the strong early signs that the drug is working for CTCL, it’s likely that word will spread among physicians looking to enroll patients in the upcoming study, putting even a little more wind in Seattle Genetics’ sails. “We believe the Phase III will enroll quickly with data potentially in late 2013,” said analyst Jason Kantor of RBC Capital Markets, in a note to clients May 10.

While Seattle Genetics can’t legally market its drug to physicians for a use that isn’t approved by the FDA, physicians are free to prescribe a drug to any patient they think might benefit. And it’s possible that as more clinical trial data rolls in, physicians could add brentuximab vedotin to treatment guidelines for CTCL patients, even before FDA approval. If that happens, it would make it easier for doctors to secure reimbursement from insurers if they prescribe it, Siegall says.

Besides the recent studies reported by Stanford and MD Anderson researchers, I count seven more investigator-sponsored clinical trials that underway or about to get started. Investigators have decided to pursue their own ideas for how to best use brentuximab vedotin in studies at City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, CA, Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Not all of these trials will pan out, of course. Researchers are running these trials precisely to find out if the drug will work. But here’s a list of the investigator-sponsored trials going on with Adcetris, which all represent some potential avenues for growth.

Site Investigator Patient Population No. of Patients to Enroll Target Completion Date
City of Hope Medical Center Robert Chen Salvage therapy for Hodgkin’s, before stem cell transplant 37 Dec. 2014
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Allison Moskowitz Transplant eligible, relapsed Hodgkin’s 46 January 2014
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Steven Park Chemotherapy, followed by Adcetris, in previously untreated Hodgkin’s patients 15 April 2013
Stanford University Youn Kim Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma patients with Mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome. 18 July 2013
Massachusetts General Hospital Yi-Bin Chen Acute graft-versus-host disease that resists steroids. 28 June 2014
Massachusetts General Hospital/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Jeremy Abramson Limited-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma, testing Adcetris in combination with the AVD chemotherapy combo. 28 April 2014
Northwestern University Leo Gordon Older patients with untreated Hodgkin’s lymphoma, getting a combo of Adcetris and AVD chemotherapy. 48 May 2016
MD Anderson Cancer Center Madeleine Duvic Cutaneous forms of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, Mycosis Fungoides, Extensive Lymphomatoid Papulosis. 58 June 2014
University of Cologne Peter Borchmann Advanced classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma 100 June 2013
–Source: clinicaltrials.gov

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  • Jerry Jeff

    Really interesting and encouraging results. Here’s hoping they can work out the nerve damage issue.