The FDA has granted the PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab a Fast Track Designation for the treatment of patients with cervical cancer.
The FDA has granted balstilimab a Fast Track Designation for the treatment of patients with cervical cancer, according to Agenus, the manufacturer of the PD-1 inhibitor.1
The designation, which will expedite the review of balstilimab in this setting, is the second fast track designation for the agent. Last month, the FDA granted a Fast Track designation to the combination of balstilimab and the CTLA-inhibitor zalifrelimab for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory metastatic cervical cancer.2
An early study evaluating the combination showed durable responses in an all-comer, nonbiomarker selected population of patients with refractory cervical cancer who progressed following prior platinum-based chemotherapy with or without bevacizumab (Avastin). The latest data from the study showed that the combination induced an objective response rate (ORR) of 26.5%, including 4 complete responses (CRs) and 5 partial responses (PRs). Eight patients had a best response of stable disease.
Agenus reported in a press release that the company plans to file 2 applications with the FDA this year for single-agent balstilimab and the balstilimab/zalifrelimab combination for the treatment of patients with metastatic cervical cancer.
"We are pleased to have now been granted Fast Track designation by FDA for both balstilimab as a monotherapy and in combination with zalifrelimab in recognition of the high unmet medical need in second line cervical cancer," Anna Wijatyk, MD head of clinical development, Agenus, stated in the press release. "The Fast Track designation confers important benefits, including the potential eligibility for a Priority Review, and we are excited to work with the FDA to quickly advance novel agents for women who suffer from metastatic cervical cancer."
Data initially reported from the study of the 2 drugs showed that combination induced an ORR of 20.6% in 34 evaluable patients, including a CR rate of 8.8% in the second-line setting.3 The combination was considered by the investigators to be well tolerated.
Overall, researchers in the cervical cancer field hope that immunotherapy offers a gateway to improve on the results chemotherapy offers patients with this disease. Investigators are all hoping to build on the initial success with the PD-1 inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
In June 2018, the FDA granted pembrolizumab an accelerated approval for the treatment of patients with advanced, PD-L1—positive cervical cancer with disease progression on or after chemotherapy. The approval defined PD-L1 positivity as a combined positive score (CPS) of ≥1 as measured by an FDA-approved test.
The FDA based its decision on data from 98 patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer enrolled in a single cohort in the phase II KEYNOTE-158 trial.4 The global, open-label, nonrandomized, multicohort, multicenter study evaluated pembrolizumab in patients with multiple types of advanced solid tumors who progressed on standard of care therapy.
Results showed that the ORR was 12.2% (95% CI, 6.5-20.4) with 3 CRs and 9 PRs. Overall, the median progression-free survival was 2.1 months (95% CI, 2.0-2.1) and the median overall survival (OS) was 9.4 months (95% CI, 7.7-13.1). All 12 responses were in patients with PD-L1—positive tumors, for an ORR of 14.6% (95% CI, 7.8-24.2). The median OS was 11.1 months (95% CI, 9.1-14.1) in the PD-L1–positive population.
The hope to build on this success, R. Wendel Naumann, MD, recently told an audience at the 2020 SGO Winter Meeting, is that cervical cancer is a virally induced tumor that should be highly angiogenic. Virus-induced cancers generally make good targets for immunotherapy because viral proteins are strong immune stimulants, Naumann, professor and director of minimally invasive surgery in gynecologic oncology with Levine Cancer Institute, Carolinas Medical Center, Atrium Health, explained to the attendees.