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AbbVie advances oncology drug

pharmafile | January 21, 2014 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing AbbVie, DNA, oncology, veliparib 

AbbVie has begun a Phase III trial of its investigational compound veliparib in women with early-stage, triple-negative breast cancer. 

This hard-to-treat form of the disease develops despite the absence of three receptors which often drive tumour growth: estrogen, progesterone or large amounts of HER2/neu protein.

It means that despite making up 15-20% of cases of the disease, it does not respond to some of the most effective therapies.

AbbVie is looking at veliparib (ABT-888) in combination with carboplatin chemotherapy, comparing the addition of veliparib plus carboplatin or placebo plus carboplatin to standard neoadjuvant chemotherapy. 

Veliparib is an oral inhibitor of poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP), an enzyme which occurs naturally in the body.

Part of PARP’s function is to repair damage to DNA, which means it can reinforce cancer cells’ resistance to chemotherapy – hence the attempt to combine veliparib with chemo in a bid to make the latter more effective.

The compound is currently being studied in more than a dozen cancers and tumour types, including Phase II studies in breast, ovarian and non-small cell lung cancers.

“This new Phase III trial is an important step in potentially providing women with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer with a new treatment option for use in conjunction with surgical therapy,” said Scott Brun, AbbVie’s vice president, pharmaceutical development.

Around 620 patients will be recruited to the trial, with pathological complete response (pCR) – achieved when there is no evidence of residual, invasive cancer in the breast tissue and lymph node tissue – the primary efficacy outcome.

The secondary outcome will be finding the rate of eligibility for breast conservation after therapy, while other measures will include event-free survival (EFS), overall survival (OS), and complete response rate (CRR).

“While therapies exist to treat many forms of breast cancer, there is still a significant need for effective, targeted therapies for women with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer, which tends to be an aggressive, faster growing form of breast cancer,” Brun added.

In June 2013 Sanofi admitted defeat with iniparib, its own PARP inhibitor, abandoning it after patients in the Phase III ECLIPSE trial with newly-diagnosed, metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer showed no benefit.

Treated with iniparib plus chemotherapy, they did not achieve improvement in overall survival, compared to patients who received chemotherapy alone.

But the class remains attractive for pharma: last year AstraZeneca began recruitment in its Phase III programme for olaparib, a PARP inhibitor for patients with BRCA mutated ovarian cancer.

The SOLO programme will look at progression-free survival in patients taking olaparib as a maintenance monotherapy when they are in complete or partial response, following platinum-based chemotherapy in the first line (SOLO 1) and relapsed (SOLO 2) settings.

A subgroup analysis by BRCA mutation status of the Phase II maintenance study in relapsed ovarian cancer “demonstrated olaparib’s potential as a maintenance treatment for platinum-sensitive relapsed patients with BRCA mutated ovarian cancer”, the company says.

Adam Hill

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