EMA Gives Positive Opinions for Merck’s and Endocyte’s Platinum-Resistant Ovarian Cancer Treatment

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Merck and Endocyte Announce European CHMP Positive Opinions for VYNFINIT® (vintafolide) and Companion Imaging Agents FOLCEPRI® (etarfolatide) and NEOCEPRI® (Intravenous (IV) folic acid) in Patients with Platinum-Resistant Ovarian Cancer

March 21, 2014

Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Endocyte, Inc., today announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has issued positive opinions for the Conditional Marketing Authorisations of VYNFINIT® (vintafolide) and companion imaging components, imaging agent FOLCEPRI® (etarfolatide), and NEOCEPRI® (intravenous (IV) folic acid), for the treatment of adult patients with folate receptor-positive, platinum-resistant, ovarian cancer, in combination with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD).

“These positive CHMP opinions bring Merck and Endocyte one step closer to providing a personalized approach to address a significant unmet medical need in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president, Clinical Development for Oncology, Merck Research Laboratories. “We want to acknowledge our colleagues at Endocyte for their pioneering work in this field, and look forward to the European Commission completing their review of the applications.”

“Vintafolide is a folate receptor targeted agent, and if approved, would be the first oncology therapeutic to employ an imaging agent as a companion diagnostic for patient selection,” said Ron Ellis, Endocyte’s president and CEO. “Today’s positive CHMP opinions are an important step toward personalizing ovarian cancer management for appropriate patients, and validate our Company’s focus on the development of targeted medicines and companion imaging agents designed to improve patient outcomes.”

Vintafolide is proposed for use in combination with PLD for the treatment of adult patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer who express the folate receptor on all target lesions. Folate receptor status should be assessed by a diagnostic medicinal product approved for the selection of adult patients for treatment with vintafolide, using Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) imaging, in combination with Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Etarfolatide and IV folic acid are medicinal products proposed for diagnostic use only. Etarfolatide, following radiolabelling with sodium pertechnetate (99mTc) solution, is proposed for SPECT imaging in combination with CT or MRI, for the selection of adult patients for treatment with vintafolide. Intravenous folic acid would be administrated prior to 99mTc-etarfolatide for the enhancement of SPECT image quality.

The applications for Conditional Marketing Authorisation for vintafolide, etarfolatide and IV folic acid were submitted based on results in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer patients who express the folate receptor on all target lesions as evaluated in the PRECEDENT Phase 2 study (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier:NCT00722592).

The CHMP positive opinions will be reviewed by the European Commission (EC). If approved, the EC grants a centralized marketing authorization with unified labeling that is valid in the 28 countries that are members of the European Union, as well as European Economic Area members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The EC usually issues a final legally binding decision within three months of a CHMP opinion.

About vintafolide, etarfolatide and IV folic acid

Vintafolide is an investigational conjugate of folic acid (vitamin B9) linked to an anti-cancer agent, the potent vinca alkaloid desacetylvinblastine hydrazide (DAVLBH). Since cancer cells generally consume higher levels of folate than normal cells to fuel their growth, some cancer cell types – including ovarian – have high concentrations of the folate receptor on their surface. Vintafolide is designed to selectively target the folate receptor to deliver the anti-cancer agent to the cancerous tissue. Tumors that have high concentrations of the folate receptor are identified by etarfolatide, a non-invasive imaging diagnostic agent. Intravenous folic acid is used with 99mTc-etarfolatide for the enhancement of image quality.

Vintafolide, etarfolatide and IV folic acid have been granted orphan drug status by the EMA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also granted orphan drug status to vintafolide and etarfolatide. Further evaluation is ongoing in the global PROCEED Phase 3 clinical trial in folate receptor-positive (FR 100%), platinum-resistant ovarian cancer (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01170650). The randomized TARGET Phase 2b study of vintafolide in non-small cell lung cancer has completed enrollment (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01577654), and a Phase 2 study in triple-negative breast cancer is expected to be initiated in Q2 (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01953536).

Find the full press release here.

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