FDA approves first treatment for rare form of skin cancer

FDAThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted accelerated approval to Bavencio (avelumab) for the treatment of adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), including those who have not received prior chemotherapy. This is the first FDA-approved treatment for metastatic MCC, a rare, aggressive form of skin cancer.

"While skin cancer is one of the most common cancers, patients with a rare form called Merkel cell cancer have not had an approved treatment option until now," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and director of the FDA's Oncology Center of Excellence. "The scientific community continues to make advances targeting the body’s immune system mechanisms for the treatment of various types of cancer. These advancements are leading to new therapies - even in rare forms of cancer where treatment options are limited or non-existent."

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 1,600 people in the United States are diagnosed with MCC every year. While the majority of patients present with localized tumors that can be treated with surgical resection, approximately half of all patients will experience recurrence, and more than 30 percent will eventually develop metastatic disease. In patients with metastatic MCC, the cancer has spread beyond the skin into other parts of the body.

Bavencio targets the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway (proteins found on the body’s immune cells and some cancer cells). By blocking these interactions, Bavencio may help the body's immune system attack cancer cells.

Bavencio received an Accelerated Approval, which enables the FDA to approve drugs for serious conditions to fill an unmet medical need using clinical trial data that is thought to predict a clinical benefit to patients. Further clinical trials are required to confirm Bavencio’s clinical benefit and the sponsor is currently conducting these studies.

The approval of Bavencio was based on data from a single-arm trial of 88 patients with metastatic MCC who had been previously treated with at least one prior chemotherapy regimen. The trial measured the percentage of patients who experienced complete or partial shrinkage of their tumors (overall response rate) and, for patients with a response, the length of time the tumor was controlled (duration of response). Of the 88 patients who received Bavencio in the trial, 33 percent experienced complete or partial shrinkage of their tumors. The response lasted for more than six months in 86 percent of responding patients and more than 12 months in 45 percent of responding patients.

Common side effects of Bavencio include fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, diarrhea, nausea, infusion-related reactions, rash, decreased appetite and swelling of the limbs (peripheral edema). The most common serious risks of Bavencio are immune-mediated, where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells or organs, such as the lungs (pneumonitis), liver (hepatitis), colon (colitis), hormone-producing glands (endocrinopathies) and kidneys (nephritis). In addition, there is a risk of serious infusion-related reactions. Patients who experience severe or life-threatening infusion-related reactions should stop using Bavencio. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Bavencio because it may cause harm to a developing fetus or a newborn baby.

The FDA granted this application Priority Review and Breakthrough Therapy designation. Bavencio also received Orphan Drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.

The FDA granted accelerated approval of Bavencio to EMD Serono Inc.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, and products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Most Popular Now

Positive Phase 1 data from mRNA-based individualiz…

BioNTech SE (Nasdaq: BNTX, "BioNTech") announced initial data from an ongoing investigator-initiated first-in-human Phase 1 study evaluating the safety and tolerability o...

FDA approves RIABNI™ (rituximab-arrx), a biosimila…

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved RIABNI™ (rituximab-arrx), a biosimilar to Rituxan®, in combination with ...

Pfizer to invest $120 million to produce COVID-19 …

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) announced today that it will further strengthen its commitment to United States manufacturing with a $120 million investment at its Kalamazoo, Mic...

Proteomic study of 2,002 tumors identifies 11 pan-…

A new study that analyzed protein levels in 2,002 primary tumors from 14 tissue-based cancer types identified 11 distinct molecular subtypes, providing systematic knowled...

A new technology offers treatment for HIV infectio…

A new study from Tel Aviv University offers a new and unique treatment for AIDS which may be developed into a vaccine or a one time treatment for patients with HIV. The s...

Sanoff offers perspective on a promising rectal ca…

UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center's Hanna K. Sanoff, MD, MPH, is the author of a viewpoint in the New England Journal of Medicine that provides a perspective on ...

Boehringer Ingelheim signs option to acquire Truti…

Boehringer Ingelheim announced the signing of an option to acquire Trutino Biosciences Inc. (the "Transaction"), a San Diego-based biotech company. Trutino Biosciences...

Broadly neutralizing antibodies could provide immu…

Two broadly neutralizing antibodies show great promise to provide long-acting immunity against COVID-19 in immunocompromised populations according to a paper published Ju...

Novel drug combo activates natural killer cell imm…

Most skin cancer drugs that activate the immune system work by triggering immune cells, called T cells, to attack tumors, but when T cells are activated for too long, the...

Novartis announces Nature Medicine publication of …

Novartis announced that Nature Medicine published final results from both the two- and three-copy cohorts of the completed Phase 3 SPR1NT trial as separate companion manu...

COVID-19 rebound after taking Paxlovid likely due …

Paxlovid is the leading oral medication for preventing severe cases of COVID-19 in high-risk individuals. However, symptoms returned in some patients after treatment was ...

Biomarkers found that could be drug targets agains…

Biomarkers that could be targets for novel drugs to treat glioblastoma brain tumors have been identified by investigators at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Cent...