European approval for BMS skin cancer vaccine
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s skin cancer vaccine Yervoy has been approved in Europe after showing survival benefits in one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.
It does have some serious potential side effects, but it is the first new treatment for previously-treated advanced melanoma in more than 20 years and the first ever to show significant improvements in overall survival.
Ron Cooper, president of Bristol-Myers Squibb Europe, said: “With an average survival time on diagnosis of 6-9 months, patients with advanced melanoma have had little hope – until now.
“The European Union approval of Yervoy is a milestone for patients with advanced disease and is the first outcome of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s commitment to immuno-oncology.”
Yervoy (ipilimumab) is a highly novel cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) immune therapy directed against T-cells and the only drug of its kind to target melanoma. It is thought to work by allowing the body’s immune system to recognise, target, and attack cells in melanoma tumours.
Metastatic melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer with 75% of people dying within one year and, unlike most other solid tumours, affects younger, middle aged people.
Yervoy’s approval was backed by phase III trial results showing one and two-year estimated survival rates for patients treated with Yervoy were 46% and 24% respectively vs. 25% and 14% in the comparator arm, with some patients alive at three and four years.
Professor Alexander Eggermont, general director of the Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris, said: “With the approval of Yervoy physicians now have an important new option to offer to patients with metastatic melanoma. This is a chance of not just months but potentially three to four years of prolonged survival for some patients in the treatment of metastatic melanoma.
“There is hope that Yervoy’s novel mode of action, together with the fact that the recommended complete course of treatment with Yervoy (3 mg/kg) includes four infusions over three months, could potentially change the way we treat patients with previously treated advanced melanoma. It is an example of what can be done through unleashing the power of one’s own immune response.”
But Yervoy does have some serious potential side effects, including severe and fatal immune-related adverse reactions due to T-cell activation and proliferation and enterocolitis, hepatitis, dermatitis, neuropathy, and endocrinopathy.
BMS said patients should be assessed for signs and symptoms of enterocolitis, dermatitis, neuropathy and endocrinopathy and that clinical chemistries should be evaluated, including liver function tests and thyroid function tests, at baseline and before each dose.
Yervoy was approved in the US in March this year, where it has a ‘black box’ safety warning and an FDA-approved Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy.
BMS is continuing to develop Yervoy, and last month signed a collaboration with Roche to test the drug in combination with Roche’s investigational oral BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib to treat metastatic melanoma.
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