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Nivolumab for relapsed SCCHN approved by European Commission

The European Commission (EC) has approved nivolumab as monotherapy for the treatment of squamous cell cancer of the head and neck (SCCHN) in adults progressing on or after platinum-based therapy.

Nivolumab is the first and only Immuno-Oncology (I-O) treatment that demonstrated in a Phase 3 trial a significant improvement in overall survival (OS) for these patients.

“Adult patients with squamous cell cancer of the head and neck that progresses on or after platinum-based therapy are fighting a debilitating and hard-to-treat disease that is associated with a very poor prognosis,” said Kevin Harrington, M.D., Ph.D., professor in Biological Cancer Therapies at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and a consultant clinical oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. “As an oncologist who helps patients deal with this terrible disease, I hope that nivolumab will now be made available as widely as possible, offering this group of patients a new treatment option that can potentially improve their overall survival."

The approval was based on results from CheckMate -141, a global Phase 3, open-label, randomised trial, first published in The New England Journal of Medicine last October, which evaluated nivolumab versus investigator’s choice of therapy in patients aged 18 years and above with recurrent or metastatic, platinum-refractory SCCHN who had tumour progression during or within six months of receiving platinum-based therapy administered in the adjuvant, neo-adjuvant, primary or metastatic setting. Investigator’s choice of therapy included methotrexate, docetaxel, or cetuximab.

The primary endpoint was OS.

The trial’s secondary endpoints included progression-free survival (PFS) and objective response rate (ORR).

In the interim analysis of the pivotal trial, nivolumab demonstrated statistically significant improvement in OS with a 30% reduction in the risk of death (HR=0.70 [95% CI: 0.53-0.92; p=0.0101]), and a median OS of 7.5 months (95% CI: 5.5-9.1) for nivolumab compared with 5.1 months (95% CI: 4.0-6.0) for the investigator’s choice arm. 

There were no statistically significant differences between the two arms for PFS (HR=0.89; 95% CI: 0.70, 1.13) or ORR (13.3% [95% CI: 9.3, 18.3] vs 5.8% [95% CI: 2.4, 11.6] for nivolumab and investigator’s choice, respectively.

The EC approval was based on updated study results, which will be presented at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Patient reported outcomes (PROs) were evaluated using the following European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Quality of Life Assessment: EORTC QLQ-C30, EORTC QLQ-H&N35, and 3-level EQ-5D instruments.

Patients treated with nivolumab exhibited stable PROs, while those assigned to investigator’s choice therapy exhibited significant declines in functioning (e.g., physical, role, social) and health status as well as increased symptomatology (e.g., fatigue, dyspnoea, appetite loss, pain and sensory problems).

The safety profile of nivolumab in CheckMate -141 was consistent with prior studies in patients with melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer.

Serious adverse reactions occurred in 49% of patients receiving nivolumab.

The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in at least 2% of patients receiving nivolumab were pneumonia, dyspnea, aspiration pneumonia, respiratory failure, respiratory tract infection, and sepsis.

Source: BusinessWire

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Founding partners

European Cancer Organisation European Institute of Oncology

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Foundazione Umberto Veronesi Fondazione IEO Swiss Bridge

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