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Beyond Kyprolis And Pomalyst: What Is Next On The Horizon?

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Published: Apr 23, 2013 1:47 pm

Within the past nine months, two new agents have been approved for the treat­ment of relapsed multiple myeloma.

In July 2012, a second generation proteasome inhibitor, Kyprolis (car­filzomib), was approved for patients with relapsed/refractory disease. In February of this year, Pomalyst (pomalidomide) was approved for use in similar patients.

These two agents, with dexamethasone (Decadron) or in combination with other drugs, should further broaden the armamentarium for the treatment of myeloma as we continue to strive to make myeloma a chronic disease.

Rather than dwell on the advantages of these two agents, which are substantial, let us examine what is in the future for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

There are currently three agents being studied for the treatment of myeloma that are in Phase 3 clinical trials, the penultimate clinical trial format that may lead to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): elotuzumab, ixazomib (MLN9708), and panobinostat (Farydak).


News articles about:

- Elotuzumab

- Ixazomib

- Panobinostat

- Oprozomib

- Daratumumab

The most promising ongoing Phase 3 trials in myeloma are investigating elo­tuz­u­mab or ixazomib in com­bi­nation with Revlimid (lenalidomide) and dexa­meth­a­sone.

The first of these trials is investigating the monoclonal antibody elotuzumab in combination with Revlimid and dexa­meth­a­sone, compared to Revlimid and dexa­meth­a­sone alone, in relapsed and refractory myeloma. The study has completed the trial accrual, and we await the preliminary results.

The side effects of this combination have been quite minimal, and the Phase 2 results were very promising. If the Phase 3 results are positive, we may see FDA approval of this agent in 2014, which would make elotuzumab the first monoclonal antibody to be approved for the treatment of myeloma. Monoclonal anti­bodies are a mainstay of treatment for lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

The second promising trial is investigating the third generation oral proteasome inhibitor ixazomib plus Revlimid and dexamethasone, compared to Revlimid and dexamethasone alone, in relapsed and refractory myeloma.  Ixazomib allows for an all oral regimen of a proteasome inhibitor, immunomodulatory drug (Revlimid), and dexamethasone. In Phase 2 trials of this combination, response rates were robust and the side effect profile of ixazomib showed less neuropathy (pain, tingling, and loss of sensation in the extrem­i­ties) than Velcade (bortezomib).  FDA approval of ixazomib is not projected until 2015.

Panobinostat is a histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDAC) that interferes with DNA in tumor cells. It is being studied in combination with Velcade and dexamethasone, compared to Velcade and dexamethasone alone. It is not clear if the trial will be a positive trial.  A recent trial with the same class drug, Zolinza (vorinostat), was not positive in Phase 3 testing.

Along with Zolinza, perifosine is another myeloma drug that looked promising in Phase 2 trials but did not prove efficacious in a larger Phase 3 trial. Perifosine is an AKT inhibitor, which means that it blocks one of the enzyme pathways in myeloma cells.  The Phase 3 trial of perifosine in combination with Velcade and dexamethasone, compared to Velcade and dexamethasone alone, was recently closed at the interim analysis for lack of significant efficacy.

There are some other agents that are not as advanced in clinical trials. These agents will probably not be considered for approval until 2015 or later.

The first is another third generation oral proteasome inhibitor called oprozomib.  This agent is currently in Phase 2 trials and appears to be effective. The earlier trials with this agent demonstrated moderate gastro­intestinal side effects. The drug delivery system was modified, and the current formulation is much better tolerated.

Daratumumab, a monoclonal antibody directed against a surface protein on virtually all myeloma cells (CD38), has very high potential. Over the last 20 years, a number of monoclonal antibodies have been developed. However, virtually none of these monoclonal antibodies has anti-myeloma activity by itself. Elotuzumab, as mentioned above, is effective in combination, yet has minimal single-agent activity. Dara­tumumab shows activity as a single agent in early studies. This would allow for its use alone, with no requirement for combination with other agents. This may be an ideal agent for maintenance therapy after in­duction treatment or transplant.

Finally, although this discussion focuses primarily on these agents in the relapse setting, it should be noted that once evaluated in the relapse setting, these agents will ultimately be evaluated in newly diagnosed patients. Thus is the case with an on-going Phase 3 clinical trial of elotuzumab plus Revlimid and dexa­metha­sone, compared to Revlimid and dexamethasone alone, in the frontline treatment of myeloma. Also, once approved, many of these agents have increased efficacy when combined with different class drugs.  For example, Kyprolis, Revlimid, and dexamethasone is a very potent regimen for relapse and frontline therapy.

In summary, the future pipeline for myeloma agents is very promising. Although myeloma is only 1 percent of all cancers, six of the 21 agents approved over the past 12 years to treat cancer have been for myeloma, and more myeloma agents appear on the horizon. Soon, we truly will be able to state with confidence that myeloma is a chronic disease with multiple treatment options that can control the disease for years.

Dr. David H. Vesole is Co-Chief of the Myeloma Division and Director of Myeloma Research at The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. Dr. Vesole writes a quarterly column for The Myeloma Beacon.

Photo of Dr. David H. Vesole from The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center.
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  • Terry L said:

    Thank you doctor for this very positive information. I love your last sentence!

  • nancy shamanna said:

    Thanks for the great summary of the up and coming new treatments that may be available in the next few years. It is very heartening to read about the advances being made in myeloma medicine!

  • Steve said:

    I was dx'd in January 2010 and much has happened over the three years on the treatment front....and 6 out of 21 cancer drugs developed over the past 12 years was for MM? Amazing! And yet there are still more in the pipeline! Yes indeed, MM becoming a chronic disease treated with low-to-no side effects is music to my ears!


  • Gii Siegel said:

    Very happy news,very happy to have you as doctor

  • Donna Hittel said:

    Since I was diagnosed in 2009, I think probably six novel drugs have hit the pipeline. I expect many years of life, thanks to you and Dr. Siegel. I am coming up on three years of remission, and I look forward to many more.

    I am very encouraged, even if I should relapse...though I don't plan to! I am among the most fortunate of patients to be treated at the John Theurer Cancer Center, and to have you for my doctor.

  • joe said:

    I am on pomalyst 21 days on week off and 40 mil dex once a week the side effects are really tough on breathing legs pain trouble walking all around feeling of being sick any suggestions to make this better.