Novocure's device-chemo combo boosts survival in pancreatic cancer

Optune
Novocure's Optune device is approved for the treatment of glioblastoma, but the company is seeking to apply its Tumor Treating Fields technology to other cancers. (Novocure)

Novocure, which markets a wearable device that treats brain cancer, unveiled positive survival data for the phase 2 pilot trial of its noninvasive therapy in patients with pancreatic cancer. The treatment was given alongside two chemotherapy drugs.

The prospective, single-arm PANOVA trial investigated the safety and efficacy of the company’s Tumor Treating Fields technology in combination with nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine, according to a statement. It involved 20 pancreatic cancer patients whose tumors could not be surgically removed and who did not undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy before the trial.

The new data comes from the second cohort of the trial. Patients who received the combo treatment posted a median progression-free survival of 12.7 months, compared to the 5.5 months for historical controls—patients observed in the past who had only been treated with the two drugs.

The one-year survival rate was 72%, compared to 35% in the historical controls. No serious adverse events related to the TTFields technology were reported, the company said. The data will be presented Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting.

“We are extremely pleased with these results,” said Dr. Eilon Kirson, Novocure chief science officer and R&D chief, in the statement. “These data give us hope that TTFields used in combination with other cancer treatments may increase survival without significantly increasing side effects for a variety of solid tumors.”

The company is working on protocols for a phase 3 trial that will assess the combination treatment as a first-line therapy for patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer whose tumors cannot be surgically removed.

Novocure’s Optune device treats glioblastoma by delivering noninvasive therapy via four adhesive patches applied over the part of the brain the tumor is located. Its first iteration scored FDA approval in 2011, and the second-gen Optune got the nod last July. And in December, the company reported that the TTFields treatment was safe and effective when delivered alongside paclitaxel to patients with breast cancer.

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