FDA approves first cancer drug through new oncology review pilot that enables greater development efficiency

FDAThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Kisqali (ribociclib) in combination with an aromatase inhibitor for the treatment of pre/perimenopausal or postmenopausal women with hormone receptor (HR)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer, as initial endocrine-based therapy. The FDA also approved Kisqali in combination with fulvestrant for the treatment of postmenopausal women with HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer, as initial endocrine based therapy or following disease progression on endocrine therapy.

This is the first approval that FDA has granted as a part of two new pilot programs announced earlier this year that collectively aim to make the development and review of cancer drugs more efficient, while improving FDA’s rigorous standard for evaluating efficacy and safety. With this real-time review, the FDA was able to start evaluating the clinical data as soon as the trial results become available, enabling FDA to be ready to approve the new indication upon filing of a formal application with the Agency.

The first new program, called Real-Time Oncology Review, allows for the FDA to review much of the data earlier, after the clinical trial results become available and the database is locked, before the information is formally submitted to the FDA. This allows the FDA to begin its analysis of the data earlier, and provide feedback to the sponsor on how they can most effectively analyze the data to answer key regulatory questions. The pilot focuses on early submission of data that are the most relevant to assessing safety and effectiveness of the product. Then, when the sponsor submits the application with the FDA, the review team will already be familiar with the data and in a better position to conduct a more efficient, timely, and thorough review.

The second program is a new templated Assessment Aid that the applicant uses to organize its submission into a structured format to facilitate FDA's review of the application. By using a structured template, the FDA is able to layer its assessment into the same file submitted by the sponsor, allowing this annotated application to serve as the document that contains the FDA review. This voluntary submission form provides for a more streamlined approach to reviewing data and illustrating FDA’s analysis. It allows for drug reviewers to focus on the key benefit-risk and labeling issues rather than administrative issues.

"With this approval, we’ve demonstrated some of the benefits of the new programs that we’re piloting for our review of cancer drugs, to improve regulatory efficiency while enhancing the process for evaluating the data submitted to us. This shows that, with smart policy approaches, we can gain efficiency while also improving the rigor of our process. These new programs were designed to reduce some of the administrative issues that can add to the time and cost of the review process, including the staffing burdens on the FDA. For example, by analyzing data earlier in the process, before formal submission to the FDA, and evaluating submissions in a structured template, we can make it easier to identify earlier when applications are missing key analysis or information that can delay reviews," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. "With today's approval, the FDA used these new approaches to allow the review team to start analyzing data before the actual submission of the application and help guide the sponsor's analysis of the top-line data to tease out the most relevant information. This enabled our approval less than one month after the June 28 submission date and several months ahead of the goal date.

"These new processes are good for patients, good for health care providers, good for product developers, and good for the FDA, by allowing our staff to have more time to engage with product developers and focus on the key aspects of drug reviews. We can improve efficiency and solidify our gold standard for review."

Currently the two pilot programs are being used for supplemental applications for already-approved cancer drugs and could later be expanded to original drugs and biologics.

Kisqali was first approved in March 2017 for use with an AI to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer in post-menopausal women whose cancer is advanced or has spread to other parts of the body.

"The approval adds a new treatment choice for patients with breast cancer," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA's Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “We are committed to continuing to bring more treatment options to patients."

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health estimates approximately 266,120 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,920 will die of the disease. Approximately 72 percent of patients with breast cancer have tumors that are HR-positive and HER2-negative.

The efficacy of Kisqali in combination with an AI for pre/perimenopausal women was demonstrated in a clinical trial of 495 participants who received either Kisqali and an AI or placebo and an AI. All pre- or peri-menopausal patients on this study received ovarian suppression with goserelin. The trial measured progression-free survival (PFS), which is generally the amount of time after the start of this treatment during which the cancer does not substantially grow and the patient is alive. PFS was longer for patients taking Kisqali plus an AI (median PFS of 27.5 months) compared to patients who received placebo plus an AI (median PFS of 13.8 months).

The efficacy of Kisqali in combination with fulvestrant in treating advanced or metastatic breast cancer was demonstrated in a clinical trial that included 726 participants who received either Kisqali and fulvestrant or placebo and fulvestrant. The trial measured PFS, which was longer for patients taking Kisqali plus fulvestrant (median PFS of 20.5 months) compared to patients who received placebo plus fulvestrant (median PFS of 12.8 months).

The common side effects of Kisqali are infections, abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell (neutropenia), a reduction in the number of white cells in the blood (leukopenia), headache, cough, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, hair loss and rash.

Warnings include the risk of a heart problem known as QT prolongation that can cause an abnormal heartbeat and may lead to death, serious liver problems, low white blood cell counts that may result in infections that may be severe, and fetal harm.

The FDA granted Priority Review and Breakthrough Therapy designation for this indication.

The FDA granted this approval to Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

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, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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