Active Substance: pegaspargase
Common Name: pegaspargase
ATC Code: L01XX24
Marketing Authorisation Holder: Baxalta Innovations GmbH
Active Substance: pegaspargase
Authorisation Date: 2016-01-14
Therapeutic Area: Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma
Pharmacotherapeutic Group: Antineoplastic agents
Oncaspar is indicated as a component of antineoplastic combination therapy in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in paediatric patients from birth to 18 years, and adult patients.
What is Oncaspar and what is it used for?
Oncaspar is a cancer medicine used in adults and children to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a cancer of white blood cells called lymphoblasts. Oncaspar is used in combination with other cancer medicines. It contains the active substance pegaspargase.
How is Oncaspar used?
Oncaspar is normally given every 14 days by injection into a muscle or by infusion (drip) into a vein, with the dose depending on age and body surface area.
Oncaspar can only be obtained with a prescription and only healthcare professionals with experience of cancer treatments should prescribe and give the medicine. The healthcare professional should give the medicine in a hospital where resuscitation equipment is available. For further information, see the package leaflet.
How does Oncaspar work?
The active substance (pegaspargase) contains the enzyme asparaginase which works by breaking up and reducing the blood levels of the amino acid asparagine. The cancer cells need this amino acid to grow and multiply, and so its reduction in the blood causes the cells to die. Normal cells, by contrast, can produce their own asparagine and are less affected by the medicine.
The asparaginase enzyme in this medicine is linked to a chemical which slows down its removal from the body and can reduce the risk of allergic reactions.
What benefits of Oncaspar have been shown in studies?
In a study in 118 children newly diagnosed with ALL, 75% of those treated with Oncaspar (in combination with other medicines) were free of the cancer after 7 years without having relapse or a new cancer during that period. This compares with 66% of those treated with another asparaginase.
In another study of 76 children whose cancer returned after earlier treatment, around 40% of Oncaspar-treated patients (some of whom were allergic to other asparaginase treatments) were cleared of the cancer, compared with 47% of patients treated with an asparaginase comparator.
What are the risks associated with Oncaspar?
The most common side effects with Oncaspar (which may affect more than 1 in 10 people) are allergic reactions (including serious allergic reactions), hives, rash, high blood sugar levels, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal (belly) pain, reduced appetite and weight loss. For the full list of side effects reported with Oncaspar, see the package leaflet.
Oncaspar must not be used in patients with severe liver disease, patients who have ever had pancreatitis or those who have had severe bleeding or serious blood clots following asparaginase treatment. For the full list of restrictions, see the package leaflet.
Why is Oncaspar approved?
Studies showed Oncaspar to be effective in patients with ALL, including patients who were allergic to other medicines containing asparaginase. Oncaspar also comes with the advantage of requiring fewer injections as the medicine stays longer in the body than some other asparaginases. However, the data in adult patients were limited and the company that markets the medicine is to provide further data of its benefit in this group of patients.
As for its risks, the side effects of Oncaspar are similar to those of other asparaginase medicines and are manageable.
The European Medicines Agency therefore concluded that the benefits of Oncaspar are greater than the risks and recommended that it be approved for use in the EU.
What measures are being taken to ensure the safe and effective use of Oncaspar?
The company that markets Oncaspar will complete two more studies on the safety and effectiveness of Oncaspar, which will help further clarify the benefits and risks of this medicine in adults and in newly diagnosed patients.
Recommendations and precautions to be followed by healthcare professionals and patients for the safe and effective use of Oncaspar have also been included in the summary of product characteristics and the package leaflet.
Other information about Oncaspar
The European Commission granted a marketing authorisation valid throughout the European Union for Oncaspar on 14 January 2016.
For more information about treatment with Oncaspar, read the package leaflet (also part of the EPAR) or contact your doctor or pharmacist.