Patients with aggressive form of melanoma lived for more than two years on average when taking Novartis therapies Tafinlar® + Mekinist®

NovartisNovartis today announced updated data from the Phase III COMBI-v study showing a significant overall survival benefit for patients with BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive metastatic melanoma when treated with the combination of Tafinlar® (dabrafenib) + Mekinist® (trametinib) compared to vemurafenib monotherapy. The combination also demonstrated significant health-related quality of life improvements in the trial, including overall health, physical and social functioning. Results are being presented at the European Cancer Congress 2015 in Vienna

"It is remarkable to see so many patients with BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive metastatic melanoma having long term responses and obtaining a significant decrease of the risk of death as compared with vemurafenib monotherapy," said Caroline Robert, MD, PhD, Head of Dermatology, Institute Gustave-Roussy. "This is the second Phase III trial of Tafinlar + Mekinist combination therapy to demonstrate a significant overall survival benefit over BRAF inhibitor monotherapy, further establishing Tafinlar + Mekinist as a standard of care for patients fighting BRAF V600 mutation-positive metastatic melanoma."

The significant overall survival benefit of Tafinlar + Mekinist from COMBI-v is consistent with the results demonstrated by the combination in COMBI-d, another Phase III trial previously reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting earlier this year.

In the COMBI-v study, the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist achieved a statistically significant overall survival (OS) benefit compared to vemurafenib monotherapy (median for the combination 25.6 months vs 18.0 months; HR 0.66 [95% CI, 0.53-0.81], p<0.001). The rate of OS at two years was 51% for those receiving the Tafinlar + Mekinist combination and 38% for those receiving vemurafenib monotherapy[3]. In addition, the median overall response rate (ORR) was 65.6% in patients receiving the Tafinlar + Mekinist combination compared to 52.8% for those receiving vemurafenib monotherapy. The safety results from this study were consistent with the profile observed to date for the combination; no new safety concerns were observed[3].

"Helping patients live longer with our targeted combination therapy, Tafinlar and Mekinist, is very gratifying," said Bruno Strigini, President, Novartis Oncology. "This exemplifies our mission to transform cancer care with the ultimate goal of identifying the right treatment for the right patient at the right time."

Metastatic melanoma is the most serious and life-threatening type of skin cancer[1] and only about one in five patients survives for five years following diagnosis with late-stage disease[2]. There are about 200,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed worldwide each year[4], approximately half of which have BRAF mutations[2]. Gene tests can determine whether a tumor has a BRAF mutation, and results can play a key role in prognosis and determining appropriate treatment[2].

In August 2015, the European Commission approved the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist for the treatment of adult patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation. The European Commission approval applies to all 28 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. In July 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted priority review for an application to obtain regular approval of the Tafinlar + Mekinist combination in BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive metastatic melanoma. Since January 2014, the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist has been approved for use in the US in patients with BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive unresectable or metastatic melanoma as detected by an FDA-approved test. The combination was approved through the FDA's Accelerated Approval program and reviewed under a priority review designation. The approval was contingent on the results of the COMBI-d study, which was designed to evaluate the clinical benefit of the combination in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600E/K mutation.

About the COMBI-v Study
COMBI-v was a two-arm, open-label, Phase III study comparing the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist with vemurafenib monotherapy in patients with BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive unresectable or metastatic melanoma. The primary endpoint of this study was OS[3].

Results from the COMBI-v study showed that the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist achieved a statistically significant OS benefit compared to vemurafenib monotherapy (median for the combination 25.6 months vs 18.0 months; HR 0.66 [95% CI, 0.53-0.81], p<0.001). A statistically significant reduction of 34% in the risk of death among patients receiving combination therapy was observed in the study. The analysis reported median progression free survival (PFS) of 12.6 months, ORR of 65.6%, and median duration of response (DoR) of 13.8 months for the Tafinlar + Mekinist combination arm compared to PFS of 7.3 months, ORR of 52.8%, and median DoR of 8.5 months for the vemurafenib monotherapy arm. The most frequent adverse events in the Tafinlar + Mekinist combination arm (>=30%) were pyrexia, nausea, diarrhea, and chills. More patients had AEs leading to dose modifications in the combination arm compared to the vemurafenib monotherapy arm. For the combination group compared to the vemurafenib group, there was a lower incidence of rash, 22% (n=76) vs 43% (n=149); photosensitivity reaction, 4% (n=13) vs 22% (n=78); hand-foot syndrome, 4% (n=14) vs 25% (n=87); skin papillomas, 2% (n=6) vs 23% (n=80); squamous-cell carcinomas and keratoacanthomas, 1% (n=5) vs 18% (n=63); and hyperkeratosis, 4% (n=15) vs 25% (n=86). Adverse events occurring more frequently in the combination arm compared with the vemurafenib monotherapy arm included pyrexia, 53% (n=184) vs 21% (n=73), respectively, and bleeding events, 18% (n=62) vs 7% (n=25), respectively. Discontinuation of treatment due to adverse events was similar between the treatment groups: 13% (n=44) for the combination group compared to 12% (n=41) for the monotherapy group[3].

Results from an analysis of the COMBI-v study of the patients' health-related quality of life showed statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements among those receiving the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist, compared to those receiving vemurafenib monotherapy. Overall health, physical and social functioning, and specific symptoms such as pain, insomnia, and loss of appetite were all improved in the group receiving combination therapy[5].

About Tafinlar + Mekinist Combination
Combination use of Tafinlar + Mekinist in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma who have a BRAF V600 mutation is approved in the US, EU, Australia, Canada and additional countries.

Tafinlar and Mekinist target different kinases within the serine/threonine kinase family - BRAF and MEK1/2, respectively - in the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway, which is implicated in NSCLC and melanoma, among other cancers. When Tafinlar is used with Mekinist, the combination has been shown to slow tumor growth more than either drug alone. The combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist is currently being investigated in an ongoing clinical trial program across a range of tumor types conducted in study centers worldwide.

In 2015, as part of its purchase of oncology products from GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis obtained the worldwide exclusive rights granted by Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT) to develop, manufacture, and commercialize trametinib. JT retains co-promotion rights in Japan.

The safety and efficacy profile of the Tafinlar + Mekinist combination has not yet been established outside of the approved indication.

Tafinlar and Mekinist are also indicated in more than 35 countries worldwide, including the US and EU, as single agents to treat patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation.

About Novartis
Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care and cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2014, the Group achieved net sales of USD 58.0 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.9 billion (USD 9.6 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 120,000 full-time-equivalent associates. Novartis products are available in more than 180 countries around the world.

1. A Snapshot of Melanoma. National Cancer Institute. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/research/progress/snapshots/melanoma Accessed August 26, 2015.
2. Melanoma Skin Cancer. American Cancer Society. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003120-pdf.pdf Accessed August 26, 2015.
3. Robert C. Two year estimate of overall survival in COMBI-v, a randomized, open-label, phase III study comparing the combination of dabrafenib (D) and trametinib (T) with vemurafenib (vem) as first-line therapy in patients (pts) with unresectable or metastatic BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive cutaneous melanoma. Abstract #3301. 18th ECCO - 40th ESMO European Cancer Congress, September 2015, Vienna, Austria.
4. GLOBOCAN 2012: estimated cancer incidence, mortality and prevalence worldwide in 2012. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Available at: http://globocan.iarc.fr/ Accessed August 26, 2015.
5 Grob JJ. COMBI-v: health-related quality of life (HRQoL) impact of the combination of dabrafenib and trametinib (D+T) vs vemurafenib (V) in patients with BRAF V600 metastatic melanoma (MM). Abstract #3345. 18th ECCO - 40th ESMO European Cancer Congress, September 2015, Vienna, Austria.

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