Novartis drug Tasigna meets primary endpoint in pivotal trial against Gleevec as first-line treatment in chronic myeloid leukemia patients

- Tasigna produced faster and deeper responses compared to Gleevec as first-line treatment in Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia - First registration study using molecular response as key indicator of patient outcomes; Bcr-Abl biomarker test measures very low levels of residual disease (1,2) - Tasigna is a potent and selective inhibitor of the Bcr-Abl protein that causes production of cancer cells (3,4) - Complete results to be submitted for presentation at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in December

EAST HANOVER, N.J., Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Novartis announced today that Tasigna® (nilotinib) 200 mg capsules met its primary endpoint in the first head-to-head comparison with the company's groundbreaking drug Gleevec® (imatinib mesylate) tablets*. Tasigna produced faster and deeper responses than Gleevec when given as first-line therapy for adult patients with newly diagnosed Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) in chronic phase. Tasigna was well tolerated in the study (5,6).
 

The Phase III clinical trial, Evaluating Nilotinib Efficacy and Safety in Clinical Trials of Newly Diagnosed Ph+ CML Patients (ENESTnd), is the largest global randomized comparison of two oral therapies ever conducted in newly diagnosed Ph+ CML patients. Designed to detect a difference in major molecular response (MMR) between Tasigna and Gleevec after 12 months of treatment, it is also the first registration study in which molecular traces of a key biomarker specific to Ph+ CML have been used as a primary endpoint for regulatory review. The comparison study also met its secondary endpoint, a difference in complete cytogenetic response (CCyR) in favor of Tasigna (5,6).
 

"We developed Tasigna to be a potent and selective inhibitor of Bcr-Abl, with the goal of eliminating the underlying cause of Ph+ CML. We now know that Tasigna reduces the level of Bcr-Abl faster and to a lower level than Gleevec, with profound implications for improving patients' outcomes," said David Epstein, President and CEO of Novartis Oncology and Novartis Molecular Diagnostics. "Molecular monitoring enables us to evaluate whether patients have achieved this deep level of CML residual disease, reducing the fundamental biomarker of leukemia to nearly undetectable levels."
 

The blood test used to determine molecular response can detect a single cell containing traces of Bcr-Abl in up to one million normal blood cells (7). In addition to being simpler and less invasive for patients, the test has a much greater sensitivity than standard cytogenetic tests (2), which require a sample of bone marrow to be drawn for visual detection of cells containing the Ph chromosome (1). Molecular monitoring measures the deepest level of CML residual disease (12).
 

Details of the ENESTnd findings will be submitted as a late-breaking abstract to the 51st annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), to take place in December in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
 

Ongoing studies of Tasigna as first-line therapy for patients with newly diagnosed Ph+ CML include the Gruppo Italiano Malattie Ematologiche dell'Adulto (GIMEMA) study, an open-label, single-stage, multicenter Phase II clinical trial; and NCT00129740, an open-label, single-center Phase II clinical trial undertaken at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, USA. New data from the GIMEMA study presented earlier this year at the European Hematology Association (EHA) congress show that at 12 months, 85% of patients taking Tasigna achieved MMR. These data indicate a more rapid reduction in disease burden compared to that seen in previous studies with Gleevec (8).
 

Study details
 

ENESTnd is a Phase III randomized, open-label, multicenter study comparing the efficacy and safety of Tasigna versus Gleevec in adult patients with newly diagnosed Ph+ CML in chronic phase (5,6).
 

ENESTnd is being conducted at 220 global sites, with 846 patients enrolled. Patients were randomized to receive Tasigna 400 mg twice daily (n = 281), Tasigna 300 mg twice daily (n = 282) or Gleevec 400 mg daily (n = 283). The primary endpoint was MMR at 12 months; the secondary endpoint was complete cytogenetic response (CCyR) by 12 months. Planned follow-up is for five years (5,6).
 

About Ph+ CML
 

CML is a disease in which the body produces cancerous white blood cells. Almost all patients with CML have an abnormality known as the Philadelphia chromosome, which produces a protein called Bcr-Abl. Bcr-Abl causes malignant white blood cells to proliferate (3). Worldwide, CML is responsible for approximately 10 to 15% of all adult cases of leukemia (9), with an incidence of one to two cases per 100,000 people per year (10).
 

About Tasigna (4)
 

Tasigna has been approved in 73 countries for the treatment of chronic phase and accelerated phase Ph+ CML in adult patients resistant or intolerant to at least one prior therapy, including Gleevec. The effectiveness of Tasigna for this indication is based on confirmed hematologic and unconfirmed cytogenetic response rates. There are no controlled trials demonstrating a clinical benefit, such as improvement in disease-related symptoms or increased survival.
 

  Tasigna important safety information

  WARNING: QT PROLONGATION AND SUDDEN DEATHS

Tasigna prolongs the QT interval. Sudden deaths have been reported in patients receiving nilotinib. Tasigna should not be used in patients with hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, or long QT syndrome. Hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia must be corrected prior to Tasigna administration and should be periodically monitored. Drugs known to prolong the QT interval and strong CYP3A4 inhibitors should be avoided. Patients should avoid food 2 hours before and 1 hour after taking dose. A dose reduction is recommended in patients with hepatic impairment. ECGs should be obtained to monitor the QTc at baseline, seven days after initiation, and periodically thereafter, as well as following any dose adjustments.
 

Contraindications
 

Do not use in patients with hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, or long QT syndrome.
 

  Warnings and precautions

  Myelosuppression

Treatment with Tasigna can cause Grade 3/4 thrombocytopenia, neutropenia, and anemia. Complete blood counts should be performed every two weeks for the first 2 months and then monthly thereafter, or as clinically indicated. Myelosuppression was generally reversible and usually managed by withholding Tasigna temporarily or dose reduction.
 

QT prolongation
 

Tasigna prolongs the QT interval. ECGs should be performed at baseline, seven days after initiation, periodically as clinically indicated, and following dose adjustments. Correct hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia prior to administration and monitor periodically.
 

Significant prolongation of the QT interval may occur when Tasigna is inappropriately taken with food, and/or strong CYP3A4 inhibitors and/or medicinal products with a known potential to prolong QT. Therefore, co-administration with food must be avoided and concomitant use with strong CYP3A4 inhibitors and/or medicinal products with a known potential to prolong QT should be avoided. The presence of hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia may further enhance this effect.
 

Sudden deaths
 

There were sudden deaths reported in the safety population and in the expanded access program. Ventricular repolarization abnormalities may have contributed to their occurrence.
 

Elevated serum lipase
 

Caution is recommended in patients with a history of pancreatitis. Check serum lipase levels monthly or as clinically indicated.
 

  Hepatotoxicity
  Serum bilirubin and hepatic transaminases

The use of Tasigna may result in elevations in bilirubin, AST/ALT, and alkaline phosphatase. Hepatic function tests should be checked monthly or as clinically indicated.
 

Electrolyte abnormalities
 

Tasigna can cause hypophosphatemia, hypokalemia, hyperkalemia, hypocalcemia, and hyponatremia. Correct electrolyte abnormalities prior to initiating Tasigna and monitor periodically during therapy.
 

Hepatic impairment
 

Nilotinib exposure is increased in patients with impaired hepatic function. A lower starting dose is recommended for patients with mild to severe hepatic impairment and QT interval should be monitored closely.
 

Drug interactions
 

The concomitant use of QT prolonging drugs and strong inhibitors or inducers of CYP3A4 should be avoided as they may affect serum concentration of Tasigna.
 

Concomitant strong CYP3A4 inhibitors
 

The concomitant use of strong CYP3A4 inhibitors or anti-arrhythmic drugs (including, but not limited to amiodarone, disopyramide, procainamide, quinidine, and sotalol) and other drugs that may prolong QT interval (including, but not limited to chloroquine, halofantrine, clarithromycin, haloperidol, methadone, moxifloxacin, bepridil, and pimozide) should be avoided. Should treatment with any of these agents be required, it is recommended that therapy with Tasigna be interrupted. If interruption of treatment with Tasigna is not possible, patients who require treatment with a drug that prolongs QT or strongly inhibits CYP3A4 should be closely monitored for prolongation of the QT interval, and a dose reduction to 1/2 the daily dose is recommended (400 mg once daily). If the strong inhibitor is discontinued, a washout period should be allowed before Tasigna is adjusted upward to the indicated dose. Close monitoring for prolongation of the QT interval is indicated for patients who cannot avoid strong CYP3A4 inhibitors. Grapefruit products and other foods that are known to inhibit CYP3A4 should also be avoided.
 

Concomitant strong CYP3A4 inducers
 

The concomitant use of strong CYP3A4 inducers should be avoided (including, but not limited to, dexamethasone, phenytoin, carbamazepine, rifampin, rifabutin, rifapentin, phenobarbital). Patients should also refrain from taking St John's Wort. If patients must be co-administered a strong CYP3A4 inducer, the dose of Tasigna may need to be increased, depending on patient tolerability. If the strong inducer is discontinued, the Tasigna dose should be reduced to the indicated Tasigna dose. Tasigna is a competitive inhibitor of CYP3A4, CYP2C8, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, and UGT1A1. In vitro studies also suggest that nilotinib may induce CYP2B6, CYP2C8, and CYP2C9, and decrease the concentrations of drugs which are eliminated by these enzymes. Single-dose administration of Tasigna to healthy subjects did not change the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of warfarin (a CYP2C9 substrate). The ability of Tasigna to induce metabolism has not been determined in vivo. Caution should be exercised when co-administering Tasigna with substrates for these enzymes that have a narrow therapeutic index. Tasigna inhibits human P-glycoprotein. If Tasigna is administered with drugs that are substrates of Pgp, increased concentrations of the substrate are likely and caution should be exercised.
 

Food effects
 

Food increases blood levels of Tasigna. Patients should avoid food 2 hours before and at least 1 hour after the dose is taken.
 

Lactose
 

Since the capsules contain lactose, Tasigna is not recommended for patients with rare hereditary problems of galactose intolerance, severe lactase deficiency with a severe degree of intolerance to lactose-containing products, or of glucose-galactose malabsorption.
 

Use in pregnancy
 

There are no adequate and well controlled studies of Tasigna in pregnant women. However, Tasigna may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Women of child-bearing potential should avoid becoming pregnant while taking Tasigna and should be advised of the potential hazard to the fetus if they do.
 

Adverse reactions
 

In chronic phase patients, the most commonly reported adverse reactions (>10%) were rash (33%), pruritus (29%), nausea (31%), fatigue (28%), headache (31%), constipation (21%), diarrhea (22%), and vomiting (21%). The most common (>10%) Grade 3/4 adverse reactions were thrombocytopenia (28%), neutropenia (28%), elevated lipase (15%), and hyperglycemia (11%). In accelerated phase patients, the most commonly reported adverse reactions (>10%) were rash (28%), pruritus (20%), and constipation (18%). The most common (>10%) Grade 3/4 adverse reactions were thrombocytopenia (37%), neutropenia (37%), anemia (23%), and elevated lipase (17%). Other serious adverse reactions included pneumonia, febrile neutropenia, leukopenia, intracranial hemorrhage, and pyrexia (Grade 3/4: 2%).
 

Dose adjustments or modifications
 

Tasigna may need to be temporarily withheld and/or dose reduced for QT prolongation, hematological toxicities that are not related to underlying leukemia, clinically significant moderate or severe nonhematologic toxicities, laboratory abnormalities, or concomitant use of strong CYP3A4 inhibitors. With concomitant use of strong CYP3A4 inducers, the dose of Tasigna may need to be increased, depending on patient tolerability.
 

For Grade 3 to 4 lipase elevations, dosing should be withheld, and may be resumed at 400 mg once daily. For Grade 3 to 4 bilirubin elevations, dosing should be withheld, and may be resumed at 400 mg once daily.
 

Hepatic impairment
 

If possible, consider alternative therapies. If Tasigna must be administered to patients with hepatic impairment, a lower starting dose is recommended in patients with hepatic impairment and QT interval should be monitored. The following dose reduction should be considered:
 

For patients with mild (Child-Pugh Class A) or moderate (Child-Pugh Class B) hepatic impairment, an initial dosing regimen of 400 mg in the morning and 200 mg in the evening (12 hours apart) per day followed by dose escalation to 400 mg twice daily based on patient tolerability should be considered. For patients with severe hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh Class C), a starting dose of 200 mg twice daily followed by a sequential dose escalation to 400 mg in the morning and 200 mg in the evening (12 hours apart) per day and then to 400 mg twice daily based on patient tolerability should be considered.
 

Other patients in whom Tasigna should be used with caution
 

Tasigna should not be used during pregnancy. Sexually active female patients should use effective contraception during treatment. Women should not breast feed while taking Tasigna. The safety and effectiveness of Tasigna in pediatric patients have not been established.
 

About Gleevec (11)
 

Gleevec® (imatinib mesylate) tablets are indicated for the treatment of newly diagnosed adult patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) in the chronic phase (CP). Gleevec is also indicated for the treatment of patients with Ph+ CML in blast crisis (BC), accelerated phase (AP), or in CP after failure of interferon-alpha therapy.
 

Gleevec important safety information
 

Gleevec is often associated with edema and occasionally severe fluid retention. Patients should be weighed and monitored regularly for signs and symptoms of fluid retention, which can be serious or life-threatening.
 

Cytopenias have been reported. Complete blood counts should be performed weekly for the first month, biweekly for the second month, and periodically thereafter as clinically indicated (for example, every 2-3 months).
 

Dose adjustments may be necessary due to hepatotoxicity, other nonhematologic adverse reactions, or hematologic adverse reactions.
 

In Ph+ CML trials,** severe (NCI Grades 3/4) lab abnormalities - including neutropenia (3.6%-48%), anemia (1%-42%), thrombocytopenia (<1%-33%), and hepatotoxicity (approx 5%) - and severe adverse reactions (NCI Grades 3/4), including hemorrhage (1.8%-19%), fluid retention (eg, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, and ascites) (2.5%-11%) and superficial edema (1.5%-6%), and musculoskeletal pain (2%-9%) were reported among patients receiving Gleevec. Severe fluid retention appears to be dose-related, was more common in the advanced phase studies (where the dosage was 600 mg/day), and is more common in the elderly.
 

Severe congestive heart failure and left ventricular dysfunction have occasionally been reported. Most of the patients with reported cardiac events have had other comorbidities and risk factors, including advanced age and previous medical history of cardiac disease. Patients with cardiac disease or risk factors for cardiac failure should be monitored carefully, and any patient with signs or symptoms consistent with cardiac failure should be evaluated and treated.
 

Hepatotoxicity, occasionally severe, may occur. Assess liver function before initiation of treatment and monthly thereafter or as clinically indicated. Monitor liver function when combined with chemotherapy known to be associated with liver dysfunction. A 25% decrease in the recommended dose should be used for patients with severe hepatic impairment.
 

Patients with moderate renal impairment (CrCL = 20-39 mL/min) should receive a 50% decrease in the recommended starting dose, and future doses can be increased as tolerated. Doses greater than 600 mg/day are not recommended in patients with mild renal impairment (CrCL = 40-59 mL/min). For patients with moderate renal impairment, doses greater than 400 mg/day are not recommended. Gleevec should be used with caution in patients with severe renal impairment.
 

In the newly diagnosed CML trial, 2% of patients had (NCI Grades 3/4) hemorrhage.
 

There have also been reports, including fatalities, of cardiac tamponade, cerebral edema, acute respiratory failure, and gastrointestinal (GI) perforation.
 

Bullous dermatologic reactions (eg, erythema multiforme and Stevens-Johnson syndrome) have also been reported. In some cases, the reaction recurred upon rechallenge. Several postmarketing reports describe patients able to tolerate the reintroduction of Gleevec at a lower dose with or without concomitant corticosteroids or antihistamines following resolution or improvement of the bullous reaction.
 

Clinical cases of hypothyroidism have been reported in thyroidectomy patients undergoing levothyroxine replacement during treatment with Gleevec. TSH levels should be closely monitored in such patients.
 

Consider potential toxicities - specifically liver, kidney, and cardiac toxicity, and immunosuppression from long-term use.
 

Fetal harm can occur when administered to a pregnant woman; therefore, women of childbearing potential should be advised to not become pregnant while taking Gleevec tablets and to avoid breast-feeding while taking Gleevec tablets because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants. Sexually active female patients taking Gleevec should use adequate contraception. If the patient does become pregnant while taking Gleevec, the patient should be advised of the potential hazard to the fetus.
 

Gleevec is metabolized by the CYP3A4 isoenzyme and is an inhibitor of CYP3A4, CYP2D6, and CYP2C9. Dosage of Gleevec should increase by at least 50%, and clinical response should be carefully monitored, in patients receiving Gleevec with a potent CYP3A4 inducer such as rifampin or phenytoin. Examples of commonly used drugs that may significantly interact with Gleevec include ketoconazole, acetaminophen, warfarin, erythromycin, and phenytoin. (Please see full Prescribing Information for other potential drug interactions.)
 

For daily dosing of 800 mg and above, dosing should be accomplished using the 400-mg tablet to reduce exposure to iron.
 

Common side effects of Gleevec tablets
 

The majority of adult patients with Ph+ CML who received Gleevec in clinical studies experienced adverse reactions at some time, but most were mild to moderate in severity. The most frequently reported adverse reactions (all Grades) were superficial edema (60%-74%), nausea (50%-73%), diarrhea (43%-57%), musculoskeletal pain (38%-49%), rash and related terms (36%-47%), muscle cramps (28%-62%), and vomiting (23%-58%).**+
 

Supportive care may help management of some mild-to-moderate adverse reactions. However, in some cases, either a dose reduction or interruption of treatment with Gleevec may be necessary.
 

Gleevec tablets should be taken with food and a large glass of water to minimize GI irritation. Gleevec tablets should not be taken with grapefruit juice and other foods known to inhibit CYP3A4.
 

Patients should be informed to take Gleevec exactly as prescribed, not to change their dose or stop taking Gleevec unless they are told to do so by their doctor. If patients miss a dose, they should be advised to take their dose as soon as possible unless it is almost time for their next dose, in which case the missed dose should not be taken. A double dose should not be taken to make up for any missed dose.
 

**Numbers indicate the range of percentages in 4 studies among adult patients with newly diagnosed Ph+ CML and patients in BC, AP, and CP after failure of interferon-alpha therapy.
 

+For more detailed study information, please see full Prescribing Information.
 

Disclaimer
 

The foregoing release contains forward-looking statements that can be identified by terminology such as "to be submitted," "implications," "predictive," "will," "to take place," or similar expressions, or by express or implied discussions regarding potential new indications or labeling for Tasigna or regarding potential future revenues from Tasigna or Gleevec. You should not place undue reliance on these statements. Such forward-looking statements reflect the current views of management regarding future events, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results with Tasigna or Gleevec to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such statements. There can be no guarantee that Tasigna will be approved for any additional indications or labeling in any market. Nor can there be any guarantee that Tasigna or Gleevec will achieve any particular levels of revenue in the future. In particular, management's expectations regarding Tasigna and Gleevec could be affected by, among other things, unexpected clinical trial results, including unexpected new clinical data and unexpected additional analysis of existing clinical data; unexpected regulatory actions or delays or government regulation generally; the company's ability to obtain or maintain patent or other proprietary intellectual property protection; competition in general; government, industry and general public pricing pressures; the impact that the foregoing factors could have on the values attributed to the Novartis Group's assets and liabilities as recorded in the Group's consolidated balance sheet, and other risks and factors referred to in Novartis AG's current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those anticipated, believed, estimated or expected. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this press release as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
 

About Novartis
 

Located in East Hanover, New Jersey, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is an affiliate of Novartis AG, which provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, the Novartis Group offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, preventive vaccines, diagnostic tools, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals and consumer health products. The Novartis Group is the only company with leading positions in each of these areas. In 2008, the Group's continuing operations achieved net sales of USD 41.5 billion and net income of USD 8.2 billion. Approximately USD 7.2 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 99,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.us.novartis.com/.
 

  *Known as Glivec® (imatinib) outside the US, Canada and Israel.

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     March 2009.
  4. Tasigna (nilotinib) Prescribing Information. East Hanover, New Jersey,
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     http://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/product/pi/pdf/tasigna.pdf.
  5. Novartis data on file
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     http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/abstract/blood-20
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  9. American Cancer Society.  Detailed Guide: CML.  What are the key
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  10. Central European Leukemia Study Group. About CML. [Cited 2009 Jan 13]
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  12. Jabbour E, Cortes J, Kantarjian H, et al. Molecular Monitoring in
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Posted: October 2009

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