Novel Cancer Treatments — Crizotinib
December 1, 2010 Leave a comment
Recent reports have described the striking activity of a novel Pfizer compound known as Crizotinib. The compound is an inhibitor of an enzyme known as the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK). In approximately 5 percent of non-small cell lung cancer patients, a specific mutation known as the EML4-ALK rearrangement results in activation of this gene and the development of cancer. In those patients who are found positive for this mutation, the response rate to the drug Crizotinib is 57 percent with a disease control rate of 87 percent at eight weeks.
Hailed as an unprecedented response rate by Anil Potti, MD, associate professor of medicine at Duke University, these results reflect the power of pre-selection of candidates for treatment. The drug is reasonably well tolerated and represents a true advance. Taken in context, however, these results are not superior to those that we recently reported using conventional chemotherapies pre-selected by functional analysis. Indeed, our results with a response rate of 62 percent, a time to progression of 9.5 months and a median overall survival of 20.3 months are actually better. More notably, our results were obtained with conventional chemotherapeutics, not novel compounds.
What is most striking about the Crizotinib results is the capacity of pre-selection to demonstrably improve response rates. Yet, these results only apply to a distinct minority of patients. The results that we reported at ASCO reflect the activity of chemotherapy applicable to the remaining 95 percent of NSCLC patients. It is also highly likely that functional analysis will select Crizotinib candidates as well, or better, than the mutational analysis utilized for patient selection in the study reported. For comparison, our response rates for erlotinib (Tarceva) as a single agent are superior to the response rates for patients selected based on EGFR mutational analysis. In addition, secondary mutations have already been identified that confer resistance to Crizotinib, which likely confound durable remissions for this and related drugs.
While I applaud the results of this interesting trial, my team and I feel it important that all lung cancer patients have the benefit of pre-selection. Whether they fit into the 5 percent described in this report, or the 95 percent covered in our clinical trial.