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Early Breast Cancer: How Verzenio can help?

Press Release

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Eli Lilly and Company’s (NYSE: LLY) Verzenio® (abemaciclib), in combination with endocrine therapy (tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor), for the adjuvant treatment of adult patients with hormone receptor-positive (HR+), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative (HER2-), node-positive, early breast cancer (EBC) at high risk of recurrence and a Ki-67 score of ≥20% as determined by an FDA-approved test. Ki-67 is a marker of cellular proliferation. Verzenio is the first and only CDK4/6 inhibitor approved for this patient population.

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“Over time, the collective results of the Verzenio clinical development program have demonstrated a differentiated CDK4/6 inhibitor profile, and the landmark data from the monarchE trial that supported this new indication in HR+ HER2- early breast cancer represent another important step forward for people who are in need of new treatment options,” said Jacob Van Naarden, senior vice president, CEO of Loxo Oncology at Lilly and president, Lilly Oncology. “We are pleased with this initial approval in the adjuvant setting and as these data continue to mature, we look forward to further opportunities to work with health authorities to expand the use of Verzenio in this setting.”

he Verzenio Phase 3 monarchE trial is a randomized (1:1), open-label, two cohort, multicenter study in adult women and men with HR+ HER2-, node-positive, resected EBC with clinical and pathological features consistent with a high risk of disease recurrence. In the trial, patients were randomized to receive two years of Verzenio 150 mg twice daily plus physician’s choice of standard endocrine therapy, or standard endocrine therapy alone. Patients in both treatment arms were instructed to continue to receive adjuvant endocrine therapy for up to 5-10 years as recommended by their clinician. The primary endpoint of the study is invasive disease-free survival (IDFS) and was met at a pre-specified interim analysis in the intent-to-treat (ITT) population, with a statistically significant improvement in IDFS for patients treated with Verzenio plus ET compared to those treated with ET alone. Consistent with expert guidelines, IDFS was defined as the length of time before breast cancer comes back, any new cancer develops, or death. 

Having achieved the study’s primary endpoint in the entire enrolled population, a pre-specified analysis of IDFS was also conducted in patients with high-risk clinical and pathological factors and a Ki-67 score ≥20%. This subgroup analysis (N=2,003) included patients with ≥4 positive axillary lymph nodes (ALN), or 1-3 positive ALN with either Grade 3 disease and/or tumor size ≥5 cm, and whose tumors had a Ki-67 score of ≥20%. There was also a statistically significant improvement in IDFS for this pre-specified subgroup of patients receiving Verzenio plus ET compared to those who received ET alone (HR=0.643, 95% CI: 0.475, 0.872, p=0.0042).1,3

This approval is based on efficacy results from an analysis of this subgroup with additional follow-up, conducted post-hoc. In this analysis, Verzenio given in combination with ET continued to demonstrate a clinically meaningful benefit, with a 37 percent decrease in the risk of breast cancer recurrence or death compared to standard adjuvant ET alone for patients with high risk clinical and pathological features and a Ki-67 score ≥20% (HR: 0.626 [95% CI: 0.49-0.80]), and an absolute benefit in IDFS event rate of 7.1 percent at three years. The number of IDFS events at the time of this analysis was 104 with Verzenio plus ET compared to 158 with ET alone. Overall survival data were not mature and additional follow up is ongoing.

Adverse reactions from monarchE were consistent with the known safety profile for Verzenio.2 Safety and tolerability were evaluated in 5,591 patients. The most common adverse reactions reported (>10%) in the Verzenio plus ET (tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor) arm, and >2% higher than the ET arm alone, were diarrhea, infections, fatigue, nausea, headache, vomiting, stomatitis, decreased appetite, dizziness, rash, and alopecia.3 The most common laboratory abnormalities (all grades ≥10%) were creatinine increased, white blood cell count decreased, neutrophil count decreased, anemia, lymphocyte count decreased, platelet count decreased, ALT increased, AST increased, and hypokalemia.

This FDA approval builds on the established body of evidence for Verzenio, which is already approved for the treatment of certain types of HR+ HER2- advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Concurrent with this approval, the FDA has expanded the use of Verzenio in all indications, when given in combination with endocrine therapy, to include men. Verzenio is available in tablet strengths of 200 mg, 150 mg, 100 mg, and 50 mg.

“The design and results of the monarchE study are practice-changing and represent the first advancement in adjuvant treatment of HR+ HER2- breast cancer in a very long time,” said Sara M. Tolaney, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and investigator on the monarchE study. “This FDA approval for Verzenio in combination with endocrine therapy in the early breast cancer setting has the potential to become a new standard of care for this population. We are encouraged by the marked reduction in the risk of recurrence even beyond the two-year treatment period in these patients, and I’m grateful to be able to offer this as a treatment option to my patients.”  

“Women and men living with high risk HR+ HER2- early breast cancer want to do all they can to reduce the risk of the disease coming back, with the hope of living free of cancer. The approval of Verzenio provides a new treatment option to help them do just that,” said Jean Sachs, chief executive officer, Living Beyond Breast Cancer. “This approval brings new optimism to the breast cancer community.”

Data supporting this approval will be presented at the October 14European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Virtual Plenary.

The labelling for Verzenio contains warnings and precautions for diarrhea, neutropenia, interstitial lung disease (ILD/pneumonitis), hepatotoxicity, venous thromboembolism, and embryo-fetal toxicity.  Instruct patients at the first sign of loose stools to initiate antidiarrheal therapy, increase oral fluids, and notify their healthcare provider. Perform complete blood counts and liver function tests prior to the start of Verzenio treatment, every two weeks for the first two months, monthly for the next two months and as clinically indicated. Based on results, Verzenio may require dose modification. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of thrombosis and pulmonary embolism and treat as medically appropriate. Advise patients of potential risk to a fetus and to use effective contraception.

See Important Safety Information below and full Prescribing Information for additional information.

Click here to view the early breast cancer infographic.

Click here to view the monarchE clinical trial infographic.

Click to view the Verzenio product photos: 50 mg100 mg150 mg200 mg.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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