Merck KGaA: CHMP Opinion for Erbitux in Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Merck KGaA: CHMP Opinion for Erbitux in Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Darmstadt, November 19, 2009 - The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP), the scientific committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), has adopted a negative opinion for the use of Erbitux® (cetuximab) in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-expressing, advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).


Given the efficacy and significant overall survival benefit of Erbitux in NSCLC as demonstrated in the pivotal, randomized Phase III FLEXa study, Merck KGaA is disappointed that NSCLC patients in Europe will not get to benefit from Erbitux.
The company remains committed to the clinical development program for Erbitux, which includes clinical trials investigating the potential of the therapy in the treatment of various cancer types.

About lung cancer
In Europe, lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer (20% of all cancer deaths).1 NSCLC accounts for approximately 80% of all lung cancer cases.2 At diagnosis, most patients with NSCLC present with advanced, non-operable (also called unresectable) disease, which is associated with a very poor prognosis.3 The overall 5-year survival rate for lung cancer is about 10%, compared to 81% for melanoma and 75% for breast cancer.4

a FLEX: First-Line ErbituX in lung cancer


References
1. European Lung Foundation. www.european-lung-foundation.org/index.php?id=65.
2. D'Addario G, et al. Ann Oncol 2008;19(Suppl 2):ii39-40.
3. Bunn PA, et al. Oncologist 2008;13(Suppl 1):1-4.
4. Sant M, et al. Ann Oncol 2003;14(Suppl 5):v61-118.


For more information on Erbitux in colorectal, head & neck and non-small cell lung cancer, please visit: www.globalcancernews.com.

About Erbitux
Erbitux is a first-in-class and highly active IgG1 monoclonal antibody targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). As a monoclonal antibody, the mode of action of Erbitux is distinct from standard non-selective chemotherapy treatments in that it specifically targets and binds to the EGFR. This binding inhibits the activation of the receptor and the subsequent signal-transduction pathway, which results in reducing both the invasion of normal tissues by tumor cells and the spread of tumors to new sites. It is also believed to inhibit the ability of tumor cells to repair the damage caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy and to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels inside tumors, which appears to lead to an overall suppression of tumor growth.
The most commonly reported side effect with Erbitux is an acne-like skin rash that seems to be correlated with a good response to therapy. In approximately 5% of patients, hypersensitivity reactions may occur during treatment with Erbitux; about half of these reactions are severe.

Erbitux has already obtained market authorization in 77 countries. It has been approved for the treatment of colorectal cancer in 77 countries and for the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) in 72 countries:

  • December 2003 (Switzerland), February 2004 (USA), June 2004 (EU) and followed by other countries: for use in combination with irinotecan in patients with EGFR-expressing mCRC (metastatic colorectal cancer) who have failed prior irinotecan therapy. In addition, Erbitux is also approved for single-agent use in further countries.
    April 2006 (EU) and followed by other countries: for use in combination with radiotherapy for the treatment of locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). In further countries, Erbitux is also approved as monotherapy in patients with recurrent and/or metastatic SCCHN who failed prior chemotherapy.
    July 2008 (EU): license was updated for the treatment of patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressing, KRAS wild-type mCRC in combination with chemotherapy and as a single agent in patients who have failed oxaliplatin-and irinotecan-based therapy and who are intolerant to irinotecan.
    July 2008 (Japan): for use in combination with irinotecan in patients with EGFR-expressing mCRC who have failed prior irinotecan therapy
    In November 2008 (EU): license was updated for the use in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy in patients with recurrent and/or metastatic SCCHN


Merck licensed the right to market Erbitux outside the US and Canada from ImClone Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company, in 1998. In Japan, ImClone Systems, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and Merck jointly develop and commercialize Erbitux. Merck has an ongoing commitment to the advancement of oncology treatment and is currently investigating novel therapies in highly targeted areas, such as the use of Erbitux in colorectal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck and non-small cell lung cancer. Merck has also acquired the rights for the cancer treatment UFT® (tegafur-uracil) - an oral chemotherapy administered with folinic acid (FA) for the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.

Merck is also investigating among other cancer treatments the use of Stimuvax® (formerly referred to as BLP25 Liposome Vaccine) in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. The vaccine was granted fast-track status in September 2004 by the FDA. Merck obtained the exclusive worldwide licensing rights from Oncothyreon Inc., Seattle, Washington, USA.

In addition, Merck is developing cilengitide, which is the first in a new class of investigational anti-cancer therapies called integrin inhibitors to reach Phase III of development; it is currently being investigated for the treatment of glioblastoma, SCCHN and NSCLC. Integrin inhibitors are thought to work by targeting the tumor and its vasculature.

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